Trump administration wants Arab force to replace US troops in Syria
First disclosure of initiative comes as US asks other regional allies for funding
The gears are in motion for US President Donald Trump’s plan to remove American troops from Syria, it was reported Monday evening, despite recent signs that his resolve on the issue had softened.
French President Emmanuel Macron hailed as a success his efforts to convince Trump to keep troops in Syria for the “long term” on French television, but apparently his US counterpart didn’t get the memo. Either that, or Trump changed his mind as he has been said to do from time to time.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the White House is seeking to assemble an Arab force to take the place of US military personnel in the Kurdish-dominated swath of northern Syria currently supported by American land and air assets. Officials have also approached Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates with requests for billions of dollars to help restore northern Syria.
The plan is facing a number of obstacles, most glaringly which country will provide the boots on the ground and how the US can assure that they would provide air support crucial to the sustainability of any such effort.
Topping the list of potential partners in the effort is Egypt. Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, called Egypt’s acting intelligence chief Abbas Kamel, according to WSJ report, to see if Cairo would be keen on contributing personnel. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are also potential resources, but are already bogged down in the conflict in Yemen.
Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, told the WSJ that Egypt would be reluctant to be involved. In fact, no Arab force would be particularly excited about such an option if the US didn’t keep any troops in the territory. “There is just no precedent or established basis for this shaping into a successful strategy,” he said.