Saudi Arabia offers to contribute troops to ISIS fight

Saudi Arabia offers to contribute troops to ISIS fight
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A top Saudi Arabia official said the country is considering contributing to the ISIS fight in Syria, following a Pentagon meeting with national security leaders.

Saudi Arabia's deputy crown prince and minister of Defense, Mohammed bin Salman, told reporters Thursday his country would consider sending ground troops to fight inside Syria. Bin Salman made the remarks following a meeting with Defense Secretary James Mattis and other national security leaders.

"We are ready to do anything that will eradicate terrorism, anything without limits," he said following a reporter’s question. 

Saudi Arabia has regularly offered to send troops to Syria since at least 2016, although some experts have worried that a Saudi effort in Syria could make the fight into more of a proxy battle with regional rival Iran, which backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government. It's also not clear how effective the Saudi military, which is already involved in a war with Iranian-tied rebels in Yemen, would be against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

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During an opening statement, bin Salman also said Saudi Arabia must work and cooperate with its allies, including the U.S., as it faces extremists and terrorists in the region.

"We in Saudi Arabia are on the front line in facing these challenges,” he said, adding that the country is “very optimistic under the leadership of President Trump, and we believe these challenges will be easy to tackle under the leadership of the president."

The United States recently deployed 400 Marines and Army Rangers on the ground in Syria to help prepare ahead of the fight to retake the city of Raqqa from ISIS. There are also approximately 500 U.S. special operators already in Syria to train, advise and assist local forces.

The new troops are considered a temporary deployment and are not being counted against the 500-troop cap set by the Obama administration that has yet to be changed by the Trump administration.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) last week introduced a bill to block additional U.S. forces from being sent to Syria. 

Her bill has 15 Democratic co-sponsors and one Republican, Rep. Walter Jones (N.C.). 

The administration is also considering deploying as many as 1,000 American soldiers to Kuwait as a "reserve" force to support the U.S. offensive against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, according to a Reuters report last week.