Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter said the United Arab Emirates is prepared to increase its presence in Syria , offering airstrikes and the possibility of ground troops as trainers and advisors, to fight the Islamic State. Photo by Billy Weeks/UPI | License Photo
BRUSSELS, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have offered to provide special operations forces in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria, U.S. Secretary of defense Ashton Carter said Friday.
Carter also told reporters about the UAE's renewed commitment to airstrikes in Syria to fight IS -- also identified as Daesh, ISIS and ISIL.
"They indicated to me their willingness now to do more, which is important, specifically to restart their participation in the air campaign, which is very important," he said after meeting with his UAE counterpart in Brussels.
"We're going to try to give opportunities and power to ... particularly Sunni Arabs in Syria who want to re-seize their territory back from ISIL, especially Raqqa."
He added UAE special forces may soon assist in training and equipping local Sunni security forces, thus putting UAE troops on the ground in Syria.
"They have very capable special forces, and they have a unique political, and even moral, role to play in this conflict," Carter said of the Emirates and of Saudi Arabia, each a Sunni nation, "and that makes them important partners in that regard, as well as the very powerful military capability they both bring."
Meanwhile, defense ministers meeting in Brussels are considering adding NATO as a coalition partner, a U.S. Department of Defense statement noted. Carter said a number of NATO countries, following his request for more resources, have pledged additional efforts to fight IS in Syria. The statement said NATO could provide experience in organizational building, training and stabilization support to the campaign.
The meeting in Brussels comes after President Barack Obama's recent approval of an acceleration in the U.S. mission of airstrikes against IS. Although the United States has offered no new munitions to its Sunni partners, the U.S. government's budget for fiscal 2017 includes a request for $1.8 billion for precision guided missiles to use against IS.
Carter noted that nearly all members of the anti-IS coalition have stepped up their involvement, or intend to do so once their governments approve.