The Syrian regime has dispersed its combat aircraft and retained some chemical weapons following the US Tomahawk strike earlier this month that aimed to deter future use of the weapons. On April 6, the US launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base in response to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime that killed about 90 civilians. Defense Secretary James Mattis said Friday that since the strike Syria has “dispersed their aircraft in recent days.” Mattis said he “can say authoritatively they have retained” some chemical weapons, and this is an issue that needs to be addressed diplomatically. Mattis had said the Tomahawk strike damaged or destroyed about 20 percent of the Syrian air force’s operational fleet. The move is a step by Syrian President Bashar al Assad to preserve the rest of his aircraft.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.