Since the missile strike, questions have been raised as to both the depth of the investigation as to the culpability of the Syrian Air force and the accuracy of the reports of the damage to the airfield, including the number of planes destroyed, and, if the reported number of planes destroyed is accurate, the percentage those planes represent of the "operational" aircraft of the Syrian Arab Air Force.
The Administration's Narrative
According to Pentagon chief James Mattis, through multiple media outlets (e.g., Aljazeera, France24, BBC News, USA Today, TheStreet and Fox News), significant damage was done to the airbase from which aircraft had delivered deadly gas ordinance, which claimed the lives of some 80 Syrians, including about twenty children.
"The assessment of the Department of Defense is 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 said in a statement on Monday. "The Syrian government has lost the ability to refuel or re-arm aircraft at Shayrat airfield and, at this point, use of the runway is of idle military interest," he added.
Earlier, the US military's Central Command spokesman Colonel John Thomas said the US strike at Shayrat airfield near Homs in central Syria had destroyed more than 20 Syrian jets.
Reuters had reported earlier that U.S. Navy Admiral Michelle Howard said, on Saturday, U.S. cruise missile strikes had destroyed the means to deliver chemical weapons from that base. "We conducted strikes against an air field which was the means by which the chemicals were launched into the air. Those means don't exist now," Howard said in an interview during a missile defense event in Cologne.
Push-back from Syria ... and the Visual Evidence
Washington has blamed the Syrian government for the gas attack on Tuesday. The Syrian government has strongly denied responsibility and blamed the deaths on leaks from a rebel chemical arms store it says was hit by a Syrian air strike.
Since an "official" investigation will take some time to even begin, and even more time to present any conclusions, no attempt will be made, here, to assess either blame for the gas attack or for whether an adequate investigation by the U.S. was conducted before the missile attack to the airbase.
As for the destruction to the airbase, Fox News and the New York Post (online) presented both drones' footage and a (Fox News, only) satellite view of the airbase. One will have to take the word of the Fox reporter (with help from U.S. military sources) as to the damage indicated because the images appear to show a lot of nothing. There was no visible damage to the runways, themselves, nor to any buildings. Even the aircraft that were reportedly destroyed cannot be seen. We are told they were in thirteen heavily shielded concrete bunkers, each of which was hit by one or more missiles. The two bunkers shown closely had visible fire damage; the drone footage also showed roof strikes, but none of the bunkers were rendered unusable, although, again, there was some visible fire markings.
Considering the forewarning, and reports that Syrian military casualties were less than ten out of the more than 100 Syrian (plus an estimated 100 or so Russian) military personnel (Syria also reported nine civilian casualties--four children), it is possible that planes were removed prior to the attack?
As usual, we get "opinion", not Facts
But, even if you accept as "gospel" the damage the U.S. reported, including 20 aircraft, that does not appear to equate to "20%" of the "operational" aircraft of Syria.
Consider the following (figures are taken from GlobalSecurity.org):
---Syria has seven strictly military airbases, and another 20 military-capable launching sites.
---The estimated "inventory" of military "operational" fixed wing aircraft in 2015 was 357. By 2017, it is 259 to 323.
Twenty planes "lost" is, therefore, less than 8% to, perhaps, 6%.
As for the use of the runways being "of idle military interest", reportedly, "strike" planes departed from them the next day.
If the runways were "potted", new aircraft could not have arrived, much less been able to take off. The Post's video shows no visible damage to the runways, although the poor resolution of the video may have "hidden" potholes.
Finally, if all aircraft bunkers were hit, apparently either not all planes housed were destroyed (an estimated 20-24 planes were housed there), or Syria had a "miracle" turnaround to get planes in, prepared, re-fueled (but from where, since the base had "lost the ability to refuel"?) and "off" in "just hours after the al-Shayrat airfield was bombed with 59 US Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from warships in the Mediterranean. Those aircraft struck targets in the eastern Homs countryside, according to a monitoring group" per The Telegraph News (U.K.).
Five-day-old fish smell better than the story the American people are being told.
Has T***p ordered that all departments of his administration, including the military, feed us deceptive or "fake" news?