UAE 'preparing' troops for anti-IS ground force in Syria

UAE 'preparing' troops for anti-IS ground force in Syria
Days after Saudi Arabia announced plans for a land force to fight IS militants in Syria, Gulf-partner the UAE said it is also preparing for a request to commit troops.
2 min read
07 February, 2016
UAE troops could be sent to fight IS militants in Syria [AFP]

The United Arab Emirates is preparing to send ground troops to Syria to fight Islamic State group militants, a government official has said.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said it had long been the UAE's belief that that "ground elements" were essential to defeating the Islamic State group.

Currently, the US-led coalition is leading the war against the extremist group, with Syrian rebel, Kurdish and regime forces all fighting IS on the ground.

Russian has also been hitting IS territories from the air, although critics point out that the vast majority of bombs have been directed at the Syrian opposition who are on the frontlines in the war against the extremist group.
It comes after Saudi Arabia made a similar announcement on Thursday and mounts on speculation that an anti-IS ground force might be in the making.

"We have been frustrated at the slow pace of confronting Daesh [IS]," Gargash said in response to a question from The Associated Press.

However, he stressed that any deployment would be relatively small.

"We're not talking about thousands of troops," the minister added.

"We are talking about troops on the ground that will lead the way, that will train, that will support and so forth. And I think our position remains the same and we will have to see how this progresses." 

He added that the US must take a leading role for any Gulf deployment to happen.

Saudi Arabia's military spokesman said late Thursday that the kingdom is determined to defeat the Islamic State group and could provide ground troops if coalition members agree to such a deployment when defense ministers meet in Brussels later this month.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the two largest Arab economies and boast some of the region's most high-tech militaries.

They are close allies in the Saudi-led coalition force fighting on the side of Yemen's internationally recognised government against Houthi rebels and their allies.

Bahrain's ambassador to the UK denied "inaccurate" remarks attributed to him by Reuters news agency on Friday, according to UAE-based daily, Gulf News.

Friday's article allegedly quoted Fawaz bin Mohammed al-Khalifa as saying that the tiny island state would commit troops to a Syria ground force to fight IS and the "brutal al-Assad regime".

The Syrian regime and Russia have both said they would oppose any outside intervention in Syria with Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem saying any troops would "return home in coffins".

Syria President Bashar al-Assad has waged a bloody war against opponents since 2011, while Bahrain also relied on a Saudi-led Gulf force to put down protests in the kingdom during the Arab Spring.