WASHINGTON (CBS News) – President Trump Saturday morning called airstrikes in Syria that occurred overnight Friday “perfectly executed,” just hours after he announced the U.S., U.K. and France were launching precision missile strikes in Syria in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria last weekend.
According to BBC News, the three Western nations jointly attacked three Syrian government sites with 105 missiles. The sites are chemical weapons facilities, BBC News reports.
“Mission Accomplished!” Mr. Trump declared.
Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said Saturday the U.S. and its allies “successfully hit every target.”
White said the U.S. believes it has “significantly crippled” Syrian President Bashar Assad’s ability to carry out a chemical weapons attack. White said the mission in Syria remains defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, but the U.S. will not stand by while Assad attacks “innocent Syrian people.”
Later Saturday morning, the U.N. Security Council held an emergency session at Moscow’s request in response to the airstrikes, CBS News’ Pamela Falk reports from the United Nations. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley made the case for the strikes, saying the U.S. and allies acted “not as revenge, not as punishment, not as a symbolic show of force.”
“I spoke to the president this morning,” Haley said, referring to Mr. Trump, “and he said if the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the United States is locked and loaded.”
At the U.N. meeting, a Russian draft resolution condemning “aggression” against Syria by the U.S., France and U.K was defeated overwhelmingly. Only three votes at 15-nation Council were in favor, Falk reports.
Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, told reporters earlier Saturday morning the initial assessment of the strikes against Syria is that the Defense Department accomplished its goals “without material interference” from Syrian defenses.
“As of right now, we are not aware of any civilian casualties,” McKenzie said, although the Pentagon cannot be certain, given the defense launched by the Syrians.
On Friday night, Mr. Trump said the U.S. is “prepared to sustain this response” until Syrian President Bashar Assad halts his believed use of chemical weapons.
CBS News foreign correspondent Seth Doane, the only American network correspondent in Damascus, reported that as President Trump was speaking around 4 a.m. local time Saturday, they could hear “rumblings” that appeared to be the airstrikes.
Doane reported there is a “real sense of defiance” in Syria, even ahead of the airstrikes.
Mr. Trump described a very specific type of target that the U.S. would go after, which are Syria’s chemical weapon capabilities. That could be everything from aircraft that dropped chemical weapons to the headquarters that control the forces that drop the chemical weapons, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford said in a news conference Friday that the three target areas included a scientific research center located in Damascus, a chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs and a nearby storage facility with chemical weapons equipment and an “important” command post.
“So proud of our great Military which will soon be, after the spending of billions of fully approved dollars, the finest that our Country has ever had,” the president tweeted Saturday morning. “There won’t be anything, or anyone, even close!”
“A perfectly executed strike last night,” Mr. Trump said. “Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!”
“Mission accomplished” is the same phrase former President George W. Bush infamously used in 2003, after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Bush was addressing sailors aboard a ship alongside a “Mission Accomplished” banner. Weeks later, it became apparent that Iraqis had organized an insurgency, and U.S. forces remained in the country for years.
Mr. Trump, who only weeks ago said he wants to pull U.S. troops out of Syria — there are roughly 2,000 there now — said Friday night the strike does not mean the U.S. does not seek an “indefinite” presence in Syria.
“America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria under no circumstances,” Mr. Trump said Friday night. “As other nations step up their contributions, we look forward to the day when we can bring our warriors home.”
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