President Donald Trump’s newly minted national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo are among those spearheading a push to build a coalition of Arab military forces that could replace US troops in Syria and serve as a stabilizing force in the region once ISIS is defeated, according to sources familiar with internal discussions.
While convincing nations like Saudi Arabia to join the cause is sure to come at a price, the Trump administration is considering an offer that includes putting a compelling reward on the table, a source close to the White House told CNN.
A similar concept was initially floated in 2013 as part of the Obama administration’s anti-ISIS strategy, but the idea of establishing an Arab force aligned with US interests recently picked up new momentum after President Donald Trump declared that he wants to withdraw US troops from Syria and have other countries “take care of it.”
“The President has made clear he wishes to see the US continue and complete the campaign against ISIS in Northeast Syria. The President has also made clear he believes regional and local parties – regional and local forces need to take on this struggle as they themselves are directly exposed to the consequences of a resurgence of ISIS,” David M. Satterfield, the State Department’s acting assistant secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs told lawmakers on Wednesday.
“Therefore, we are reaching out to partners across the region to see what form of contribution – and not just financial – they may make to sustaining this fight beyond the destruction of ISIS,” Satterfield said during a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Specifically, the US is pursuing contributions from Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to help counter Iran in Syria by filling the void should the US significantly reduce its footprint in the country.
While Trump’s decision to launch missile strikes against alleged chemical weapons facilities belonging to the Syrian regime has amplified the debate over the administration’s long-term goals, the move has not derailed efforts to convince other nations to take on a larger role going forward.