A statement released by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis revealed that last week's cruise missile strike took out 20 percent of Syria's operational military aircraft, Mattis said on Monday that the Syrian government would be ill-advised ever again to use chemical weapons.
The Defense Secretary also emphasized that the Department of Defense assessment concluded that the strike resulted in the damage or destruction of fuel and ammunition sites, air defense capabilities, and 20 percent of Syria's operational aircraft. Mattis also added the attack resulted in loss of ability to refuel or rearm aircraft at Shayrat airfield and at this point, use of the runway is of idle military interest.
The extent of the damage in the airfield was unclear before the Defense Secretary released the statement. The airfield was used as a launching point for last week's chemical attack on Syrian civilians in Idlib province. Approximately 20 warplanes were estimated to have been destroyed on the airfield. However, the 20 percent focuses on overall damage including the warplanes.
The Defense Secretary called the strike which involved 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from two U.S. Navy destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean as a measured response to the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons.
The action was directed by the President to deter future use of chemical weapons and to show that the United States will not passively stand by while Assad murders innocent people with chemical weapons, which are prohibited by international law and which were declared destroyed.
The statement released by Mattis comes as the White House press secretary Sean Spicer indicated that Trump’s administration was ready to strike again if Assad continues to attack his people.
The White House press secretary said that the sight of people being gassed and blown away by barrel bombs ensures that if Trump’s administration sees that kind of action again, it will hold open the possibility of future action. The statement released by Spicer’s comments on barrel bombs indicates that Washington is lowering the threshold for the use of force against Assad from chemical weapons to barrel bombs.