Arab States on Board for Air Strikes, But What About Ground Troops?
Policy + Politics

Arab States on Board for Air Strikes, But What About Ground Troops?

Wrapping up his visit to the Middle East, Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday said he’s “extremely encouraged” U.S. allies have expressed a willingness to offer military assistance to battle the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 

Tasked with building a regional coalition to help destroy the terror group, Kerry said on CBS’s Face the Nation that some countries “are clearly prepared to take action in the air alongside the United States and to do airstrikes, if that’s what they’re called on to do,” though he would not name the countries. He said it would “not be appropriate” to do so. 

Related: Here Are the Real Commitments of Obama’s ISIS Coalition 

Kerry made clear that while the U.S. “at this moment”…isn’t “looking to put troops on the ground,” there are some countries that “have offered to do so.” 

Critics of the Obama administration, meanwhile, say that not putting boots on the ground in Syria is unrealistic.

On Fox News Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said, “This idea that we’re never going to have boots on the ground in Syria is fantasy,” adding, “There is no way in hell you can form an army on the ground to go into Syria to destroy [ISIS] without a substantial American component.”

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said Congress should vote to expand a program to equip and train moderate rebels in Syria to fight against ISIS on the ground, rather than U.S. troops.

Related: Boehner Summons House Back to Act on Obama’s ISIS Request

“We have had a relationship with these fighters now for a couple of years. They’re getting better and more capable,” McDonough said on Fox News Sunday. “What’s most important here is that the Syrian opposition on the ground fighting ISIL can count on American and coalition airpower to supercharge their effort…  That’s ultimately going to be what is called for in this strategy.”

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) agreed and said arming the moderate rebels would be the “most effective force” in that region.

John Kerry’s comments come on the heels of a meeting with Egyptian officials on Saturday, who declined to specify what help they would provide to help the United States decimate the terrorist group wreaking havoc in Iraq and Syria. 

Kerry had already met with Middle Eastern allies in Jordan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, where they have endorsed a coordinated military and political effort in the fight to destroy ISIS. 

The New York Times reported that Saudi Arabia has pledged to permit the training of Syrian rebel forces at bases in its territory. Still, there hasn’t been any detail of what military support other countries in the region would provide. 

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Sunday morning that his country, in response to a formal request from the U.S., would commit 600 troops and up to 10 military aircraft. 

And though the administration is attempting to enlist as many Middle Eastern allies in the effort as it can, some critics say several regional allies including Turkey are hesitant to lend support to the United States at this time. Turkey has told the U.S. it will keep its soldiers out of combat and NATO will not be allowed to use its bases or territories to launch air attacks. 

As Richard Engle explained on Meet the Press Sunday, Turkey’s reluctance is likely due to the fact that ISIS has captured 49 Turks, including diplomats taken from its Mosul consulate. . 

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