UAE ready to send ground troops to Syria to fight as part of coalition against Daesh
by Daily Sabah with Wires
ABU DHABIFeb 07, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Daily Sabah with Wires
Feb 07, 2016 12:00 am
The United Arab Emirates has announced its readiness to commit troops to Syria to fight DAESH. Last week, Saudi Arabia announced a similar pledge, which was followed by close ally Bahrain
A top official in the United Arab Emirates said Sunday that the country is prepared to send ground troops to Syria to fight DAESH militants as part of an international coalition.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash made the comments in the federal capital of Abu Dhabi, days after Saudi Arabia said it is ready to deploy ground forces if leaders of the U.S.-led international coalition fighting the group call for it.
Gargash said it has been the Emirates' long-held position that a campaign to defeat the group "has to include ground elements," though his latest comments took on added weight in light of Riyadh's pledge last week.
"We have been frustrated at the slow pace of confronting DAESH," Gargash said in response to a question from The Associated Press. He stressed that any deployment would be relatively small, saying that "We're not talking about thousands of troops."
"We are talking about troops on the ground that will lead the way, that will train, that will support and so forth. And I think our position remains the same and we will have to see how this progresses," he said. "Of course an American leadership in this effort is a prerequisite also."
Gargash said the UAE had always stated there also needed to be a "genuine political process in Baghdad that will encompass the Sunnis" in Iraq, which has a Shiite-led government.
Saudi Arabia's military spokesman said last week that the kingdom is determined to defeat DAESH and could provide ground troops if coalition members agree to such a deployment when defense ministers meet in Brussels later this month.
The Pentagon on Friday welcomed Saudi Arabia's pledge to commit ground forces to fight DAESH in Syria, should the U.S.-led coalition ever send in combat troops.
The United States has for weeks been calling on partners in the 65-member coalition bombing DAESH 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 airstrikes against the extremists in Syria. "We welcome the announcement by Saudi Arabia that they are looking into ways to enhance their counter-DAESH efforts," U.S. Central Command spokesman Pat Ryder said.
Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are the two largest Arab economies and boast some of the region's most powerful militaries. They are close allies and are the driving force behind a Saudi-led coalition fighting on the side of Yemen's internationally recognized government against Iranian-supported Shiite rebels in Yemen.
Bahrain also said it was ready to commit ground troops to Syria as part of a U.-S.-led coalition against DAESH, a day after its larger neighbor and close ally Saudi Arabia announced a similar pledge. Bahraini ambassador to Britain Sheikh Fawaz bin Mohammed al-Khalifa said in a statement that Bahrain would commit troops to operate "in concert with the Saudis" under what he called the international coalition against terrorism. The Bahraini ambassador said the Saudi initiative in Syria was meant to combat both DAESH and "the brutal Assad regime." Sheikh Fawaz also announced the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) had decided to base a new unified GCC naval operations center in Bahrain.
"The establishment of a joint (Gulf Arab) force shows clearly and unequivocally that under the leadership of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states are determined to take positive action within the region and globally to combat terrorism and extremism, from whatever quarter they emanate," he said.
Gargash's remarks come a day after Syria's foreign minister warned Saturday that Saudi or other foreign troops entering his country would "return home in wooden coffins" and asserted that recent military advances put his government "on track" to end the five-year-old civil war. Walid al-Moallem's comments capped a week that saw the collapse of the latest U.N-led Syria peace efforts and a Russian-backed Syrian government offensive near the city of Aleppo that sent thousands of residents fleeing toward Turkey.
Syria's devastating civil war, now in its fifth year, has left at least 250,000 people dead, according to the U.N. Russian airstrikes, which started in Sept 2015, intensified the humanitarian crisis in the country. Recently, Russian and Syrian government forces have intensified an assault on rebel-held areas around the Syrian city of Aleppo, prompting tens of thousands of refugees to flee to the Turkish border. According to the Violations Documentation Centre in Syria (VDC), at least 1,505 people have been killed in Russian airstrikes since September, including at least 346 children.