Intel chiefs: Saudi, UAE ground troops unlikely to help against ISIS

Lauren Schneiderman

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates may not have the capabilities to contribute significantly to the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), two U.S. intelligence chiefs testified Tuesday.

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“I do not assess that the Saudi ground forces would have ... the capacity to take this fight on,” Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“The Emiratis, very capable, acquitted themselves well in Yemen," Stewart added.  

“Whether they have the capacity to do both Yemen and something in Iraq-Syria is questionable for me,” Stewart said. “I think they’re doing extremely well in Yemen, but their capacity to do more is pretty limited.”

Stewart and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Tuesday that while Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s offers are welcome, questions linger over whether either country's troops would be effective.

“I certainly appreciate and value the Saudi willingness to engage on the ground, I think that would be a challenge for them if they try to take that on,” Clapper said.

The Obama administration has long sought more help from coalition partners, particularly the Sunni Arab countries U.S. officials feel could better maintain stability after the defeat of ISIS. 

Ahead of this week’s meeting in Brussels of defense ministers from the entire coalition fighting ISIS, Saudi Arabia and the UAE said they’d be willing to send ground troops to Syria.

Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia made their offers contingent upon U.S. leadership.

Clapper said he interpreted that condition as meaning the countries want the Pentagon's command and control capability.

Stewart, however, said he saw that prerequisite as a request for more U.S. ground troops.

 

“I think the idea is how do we get more U.S. skin in the game,” Stewart said.