Saudi: Ready to join ground operation in Syria

The White House said on Friday it welcomed Saudi Arabia’s announcement that it was prepared to ramp up its commitment to ISIS

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The spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s military said on Thursday the kingdom was ready to join any ground operation in Syria if required by the U.S.-led coalition, a move welcomed by the White House.

"The kingdom is ready to participate in any ground operations that the coalition (against ISIS) may agree to carry out in Syria," said military spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asiri during an interview with Al Arabiya News Channel.

"If there was a consensus from the leadership of the coalition, the kingdom is willing to participate in these efforts because we believe that aerial operations are not the ideal solution and there must be a twin mix of aerial and ground operations," Asiri said.

Since late 2014 Saudi Arabia has been part of a U.S.-led coalition which officially has 65 members and has been bombing the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group which seized large parts of Syria and Iraq.

Asiri is spokesman for a separate Saudi-led Arab coalition which, since March, has conducted air strikes and ground operations in Yemen.

That coalition supports the government there in its fight against Houthi rebels who seized much of the country and are backed by Iran.

Iran is also one of the main allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose regime has been fighting an insurgency for about five years.

Saudi Arabia supports more moderate rebels against Assad's forces.

U.S. welcomes Saudi news

The White House said on Friday it welcomed Saudi Arabia’s announcement that it was prepared to ramp up its commitment to ISIS.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the Saudi announcement on Thursday was a response to U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s plea for coalition partners to step up contributions to the fight against ISIS

“So we certainly welcome the announcement from our partners in Saudi Arabia that they would be prepared to ramp up their commitment militarily to this effort,” he told reporters.

Earnest said it was not clear whether the Saudi offer would include a significant contingent of ground troops or the deployment of special operations forces.

Click here to watch Al Arabiya’s full interview with Saudi military spokesman Ahmed al-Asiri

(with AFP and Reuters)

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