French officials said the country faced a “double complexity” in carrying out operations: There was the more than 4,300-mile distance the French military traveled and then the synchronization required with allies.
There was a “perfect sense of execution,” said French Defense Minister Florence Parly.
And yet McKenzie did not rule out the possibility of future chemical weapons attacks by the Assad regime.
“I’m not going to say that they’re going to be unable to continue to conduct a chemical attack in the future, but I suspect that they’ll think long and hard about it based on the activities of last night,” the lieutenant general said.
At a news conference at the Pentagon after Trump announced the operation Friday night, Defense Secretary James Mattis described the strikes as a “one-time shot” and “a little over double the weapons” used by the Trump administration when it carried out a similar assault in April 2017 that consisted of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
“Last year, the focus was on the delivery,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said Saturday. “This time, the strikes went to the very heart of the enterprise, to the research, to development, to storage. We are very confident that we have significantly crippled Assad’s ability to deploy these weapons.”
She added that while the mission in Syria remains defeating the Islamic State, which has seen its grip weaken in the region in recent months, the U.S. will not allow Assad to attack “innocent Syrian people.” The airstrikes, she insisted, also do not represent a change in U.S. policy.
Trump earlier this month had reluctantly agreed to keep U.S. troops in Syria for an undetermined period of time to defeat ISIS.
Syria has been locked in a civil war since the Arab Spring of 2011, pitting rebel groups who seek to depose the Assad regime against Russia-backed government forces.
Both Russia and Iran condemned the airstrikes, with Russian military officials claiming Saturday that the Syrian military had shot down more than 70 missiles.
White stood by Trump’s assessment of “mission accomplished.”
“Last night, operations were very successful, we met our objectives, we hit the sites — the heart of the chem weapons program — so it was ‘mission accomplished,'” White said.
Trump’s tweet Saturday appeared to be referring to the success of the strike, but whether or not the Assad regime will be deterred from using chemical weapons remains to be seen.
A perfectly executed strike last night. 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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 14, 2018
The president tweeted again early Sunday morning, responding to criticism of his initial use of the phrase “mission accomplished.”
The Syrian raid was so perfectly carried out, with such precision, that the only way the Fake News Media could demean was by my use of the term “Mission Accomplished.” I knew they would seize on this but felt it is such a great Military term, it should be brought back. Use often!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 15, 2018
Assad’s presidential Twitter account Saturday appeared to show him unfazed by the military strikes.
“Good souls will not be humiliated,” it tweeted with a video of him appearing to walk calmly, with briefcase in hand, into his palace in Damascus.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday reaffirmed Russia’s view that the purported chemical attack was a fake, criticizing the U.S. and its allies for launching the strike without waiting for inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international watchdog group, to visit the area.