WASHINGTON, Based off the “almost 100 percent” defeat of the so-called Islamic State (IS), President Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed desire to pull troops out of Syria in order to “let other people take care of the situation there.” The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on Monday reported that US officials have reached out to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE about contributing billions of dollars and military resources to Syria after IS is completely defeated.
The possibility of an Arab military force has also been floated as the WSJ wrote that National Security Adviser John Bolton reportedly reached out to Egyptian officials about the initiative.
But the report said that military officials indicated it would be difficult to convince Arab nations to send troops if the US withdrew its forces entirely.
At a press conference with Baltic leaders earlier in April, Trump suggested that the US would be willing to extend its military presence in Syria if other Arab countries, like Saudi Arabia paid for it.
When asked about the WSJ report, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert responded that, “The administration’s approach is, whether it’s in Syria or Iraq or other countries, we would like other countries to do more.” She added, “The United States have been an extremely generous country, not only in terms of our humanitarian aid and our willingness to step up and do what we think is right to try to help people.” Nauert stressed “everybody could, probably, kick in a little more” money and highlighted “those who are living in the backyard of Syria should recognize that, perhaps, better than anyone else.” Two days after the US, UK, and France conducted strikes against Syrian chemical weapons sites, French President Emmanuel Macron told BFM that he convinced Trump to stay in Syria “for the long term.” “We also persuaded him that we needed to limit the strikes to chemical weapons sites after things got a little carried away over tweets,” Macron told interviewers.
When asked about Macron’s comments, White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders responded that the US focus is on defeating IS and that Trump wants to bring troops on the ground back.
“The President also wants the people in the region, our Gulf partners, to step up and do more, and he wants them to take on some of the financial responsibility of all of the military provided there in the region,” she added.
Meanwhile, the president’s own military advisers and lawmakers have pushed back on these comments and warned that pulling troops out of Syria could have a destabilizing effect.
In late November, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said the US is “not just going to walk away” before a political settlement is reached between the Syrian government and opposition forces.
“We’re going to make sure we set the conditions for a diplomatic solution” to the civil conflict, he added. “Not just, you know, fight the military part of it and then say good luck on the rest of it.” Head of the US Central Command (CENTCOM) Joseph Votel echoed during an event that the military mission included “stabilizing, consolidating gains,” and “addressing long term issues of reconstruction.” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has said that the US should stay in Syria for “at least the mid-term,” he told TIME magazine.
The US troops in Syria “is the last effort to stopping Iran from continuing to expand influence with regional allies. US forces inside the country also allow Washington to have a say in Syria’s future,” he added.
Yet, money has also been a factor in Trump’s mind. The president already froze over USD 200 million in funds for recovering efforts in Syria “as his administration reassesses Washington’s broader role in the protracted conflict there,” said the WSJ citing US officials.
At a press conference in Paris, before the strikes in Syria, Crown Prince Salman suggested that Saudi Arabia could take part in military action in Syria.
“If our alliance with our partners requires it, we will be present,” he said.
Source: Kuwait News Agency