"We are in talks with the US and have sent troops to Syria since the beginning of the Syrian crisis," Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said. (Faisal Al Nasser / Reuters)
RIYADH – Saudi Arabia said there are talks with the United States over the deployment of troops to Syria as the Trump government seeks ways to stabilize the country's northeast while reducing its own military presence.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Riyadh that discussions on what type of force should remain in eastern Syria and where this force would come from are "not yet completed".
"We are in discussion With the US and since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, troops have been sent to Syria," he said, adding that the offer to send troops had previously been made under the Obama administration, ultimately however was not accepted.
The Trump administration has said it is trying to persuade the Persian Gulf countries to lift the financial and military burden of stabilization by repelling US forces. The White House reiterated on Monday that President Trump still wants to see an early withdrawal of US troops from Syria, after French President Emmanuel Macron proposed that US forces remain longer term.
But the government has also expressed its desire to contain Iran and continue to defeat militant fighters of the Islamic State.
John Bolton, Trump's new security adviser, recently asked Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel if Cairo would Delivering troops to an Arab force that could replace US troops in Syria, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing US officials.
Jubile, who commented on a question about the report, said that Saudi Arabia has "always kept its share of the burden financially".
However, it is likely that putting together a pan-Arab force will be a challenge. It is unclear how ready Saudi Arabia would be to send troops. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have already tied troops in the bloody civil war in Yemen.
Recent comments by Jubeir and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have also pointed to a shift in Saudi Arabia's position on Syria towards an assumption that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will not be ousted from power in the foreseeable future.
"Bashar remains," the Crown Prince recently told Time magazine.
At a meeting of representatives of the 22-member Arab League this week, Jubeir also emphasized Saudi Arabia's commitment to keeping the Syrian institutions intact.
Meanwhile, Egypt tacitly expressed its support for Assad in the war, casting doubt on his willingness to send troops to areas outside of government control. The government of President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi was generally reluctant to send their troops abroad. Sissi has refused a request from Saudi Arabia – its close ally and one of Egypt's largest financiers – to deploy troops for the Saudi war effort in Yemen
Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates and others, has said it has been ready for years To send troops to Syria, but it never has. During the Obama administration, Riad complained that the United States did not have enough "skin in it" and said it would not have ground forces in the absence of a coherent plan for their deployment – side by side with the US forces – and a strategy for Success
With great fanfare in December 2015, the Saudis announced the formation of an "Islamic military alliance" based in Riyadh to fight global terrorism. Speaking at a press conference, Mohammed, the then deputy crown prince, said that forces from "the entire Islamic world" were being gathered to be used in the fight against terrorism. The force has never materialized in a meaningful way.
Two months later, at another press conference in Riyadh, officials from the Saudi military said they were "ready to engage in any ground operations in Syria" effort led by US forces. A similar offer made the Emiratis.
While Saudi Arabia has been waging war in Yemen for several years, this conflict is largely fueled, and the Saudis have sent virtually no ground troops.
Trump has not clarified what He is seeking financial and military contributions from the Gulf States to fight against the Islamic State in Syria. The approximately 2,000 US soldiers do not directly participate in combat operations, but train and arm locally recruited forces, which also advise and support them in air strikes and intelligence services.
Under the stabilization plans for militant-liberated areas, the Americans have organized mine reconstruction and reconstruction of the infrastructure, and served as a support to prevent other forces from taking over cleared areas. These are some of the tasks Trump implied, should partner forces, especially from the Gulf, take over once the remaining pockets of the Islamic state have been eliminated.
In a telephone conversation late last year, Trump asked Saudi King Salman to pay $ 4 billion for stabilization efforts in Syria.
DeYoung reported from Washington. Kareem Fahim contributed from Istanbul.