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USA wants Arab force to replace its troops in Syria, WSJ

18 April 2018

The Trump administration is seeking to raise an army of Arab soldiers from Syria's neighboring countries that would take over for American troops and help stabilize the northeastern part of the country after the defeat of Islamic State, according to USA officials.

The comments were in response to a Wall Street Journal report on Monday that US President Donald Trump's administration was seeking to assemble an Arab force, including troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to replace a US military contingent in Syria.

Still, top administration officials say American troops will remain in Syria until the USA accomplished three goals: The total defeat of ISIS, ensuring chemical weapons can't be used in any way that harms us interests, and establishing a vantage point to watch what Iran is doing in the country. "Let the other people take care of it now".

"We have asked our partners to take greater responsibility for securing their home region, including contributing larger amounts of money", Trump said Friday night.

In early April, Mr. Trump spoke about the need to speed the withdrawal of the 2,000 troops the USA has in Syria, a position at odds with many top advisers who worry that leaving the country too soon would cede ground to Iran, Russia, their proxies or other extremist groups.

"Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the U.A.E. have all been approached with respect to financial support and more broadly to contribute", an official told the WSJ.

But conflicting interests among Arab nations could be a challenge to building a coalition - a matter made even more complicated if the U.S. doesn't leave any some troops there to provide military support.

Michael O'Hanlon, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, warned of external intervention, saying: "A new force has to be strong enough to face down Assad or Iran if either seeks to reclaim territory, perhaps with Russia's help".

Donald trump turned to his allies in the middle East.

This would be exacerbated by the uncertain role that the United States would play in the project, with questions remaining surrounding whether the USA would continue to provide training, support and air cover for troops.

USA wants Arab force to replace its troops in Syria, WSJ