U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said late Thursday he welcomes Saudi Arabia’s offer to send ground troops into Syria to fight the Islamic State group. The announcement came ahead of a meeting scheduled for next week in Brussels focused on ramping up the fight against the extremist group, also known as ISIS.
Carter, at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, said the news “is very welcome. It'll be easier to sustain the defeat and it'll be also easier to accomplish all the nonmilitary aspects of the defeat if other countries that are part of the coalition accelerate their efforts at the same time,” the Hill reported Friday
Saudi Arabia has been involved in the U.S.-led airstrike campaign against ISIS since it began in September 2014. The country has also dedicated hundreds of millions of dollars to combating extremism, but U.S. officials have continued to call on regional and world powers to take a more proactive role in the fight.
— Keith Rogers (@KeithRogers2) February 4, 2016
Saudi Arabia's military currently is caught up in the conflict in Yemen where it is leading an Arab coalition against Shiite rebels believed to be backed by Iran. Saudi Arabia and Iran have found themselves on opposing sides of several Middle Eastern conflicts, including in Syria where Iran backs the embattled Syrian leader Bashar Assad. Saudi Arabia’s leaders have said that both ISIS and Assad must go, and have been heavily involved in funding rebels on the ground. The kingdom has one of the highest defense budgets in the world.
"We are determined to fight and defeat Daesh," Saudi Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asari told the Associated Press Thursday. Daesh is the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.
ISIS continues to rule over large swaths of Iraq and Syria, but has lost some key territory in recent months. Amid a U.S.-led airstrike campaign, the extremist group reportedly is struggling financially and has cut back the salaries of its fighters. At the same time, ISIS has expanded its reach overseas, and now controls parts of Libya and Afghanistan.