Pentagon welcomes Saudi anti-IS troop proposal

Washington (AFP) –


The Pentagon on Friday welcomed Saudi Arabia's pledge to commit ground forces to fight Islamic State jihadists in Syria, should the US-led coalition ever send in combat troops.

The United States has for weeks been calling on partners in the 65-member coalition bombing the IS group in Iraq and Syria to contribute more, and last month Defense Secretary Ashton Carter chastised some countries for doing "nothing at all."

Saudi Arabia has been part of the coalition since late 2014. Though it carried out high-profile initial air strikes against the jihadists in Syria, its participation and that of other Gulf members dropped as they shifted focus to striking conflict-torn Yemen.

"We welcome the announcement by Saudi Arabia that they are looking into ways to enhance their counter-ISIL efforts," US Central Command spokesman Pat Ryder said, using an alternative acronym for the IS group.

"There will be continued discussions with the Saudis and our other partners on the best ways we can continue to intensify coalition efforts."

Carter is meeting with defense officials from Saudi Arabia and at least two dozen other coalition members next week in Brussels, where he is expected to outline the next steps in the anti-IS campaign.

The Pentagon chief said Saudi Arabia had offered to help encourage other "Muslim-majority" countries to play more of a role as well.

"You see others stepping up, and the reason why I'm going to Brussels next week is to bring the full weight of the coalition behind accelerating the defeat of ISIL," Carter said late Thursday.