John Bolton, US President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, is spearheading a push to establish a coalition of Arab military forces in Syria to pave the way for an American withdrawal, according to reports.
The White House is considering putting “a compelling reward” on the table in order to convince Arab states like Saudi Arabia to deploy forces to Syria, CNN reported, citing a source close to the White House.
The idea of creating an Arab force recently gained traction after Trump declared earlier this month that he wanted American troops out of Syria “very soon” and have other countries "take care of it."
The United States in particular is enlisting assistance from Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates should the US significantly reduce its troops size in Syria.
The US and its regional allies have backed militants opposed to the Syrian government since the conflict broke out in 2011.
Bolton recently called Egypts acting intelligence chief, Abbas Kamel, to determine whether his country would be willing to deploy to Syria, according to CNN and The Wall Street Journal.
Mike Pompeo, Trump’s pick for Secretary of State is also involved in the initiative.
US officials are in contact with other Arab countries about the possibility of building a regional force, but a formal agreement has yet to be reached.
A spokesman of the US-led coalition in Syria, Colonel Ryan Dillon, said Tuesday it was up to individual nations to announce specific force contributions.
"As far as the coalition and individual nations that are contributing forces to Syria as a request by those nations we have not announced that and we will respect their request on that, so whether thats providing air support or ground support or trainers, well leave that to individual nations to personally make that announcement," he said.
Meanwhile, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir announced on Tuesday that Riyadh was ready to send troops into Syria as part of this contingent.
“We are in discussions with the US and have been since the beginning of the Syrian crisis about sending forces into Syria,” he said at a news conference in Riyadh with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
Jubeir also noted that Saudi Arabia made a similar offer to the Barack Obama administration, but that the US did not consider the proposal.
The Trump administration’s overall strategy has come under close scrutiny after the president ordered missile strike against several government positions in Syria last week.
The strike, carried out in coordination with Britain and France, was in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack outside Damascus, which the West has blamed on the Syrian government. Damascus and Russia have strongly denied any responsibility in the suspicious attack.