WASHINGTON — The U.S. will not send American ground forces to fight the Islamic State in Syria despite Saudi Arabia’s announcement last week that it would contribute troops if the U.S.-led coalition should instigate a ground fight, State Department spokesman John Kirby said Monday.
“There has been absolutely no change to the commander-in-chief’s intention to not have a large military footprint in Syria,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said after Secretary of State John Kerry and Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir met on Monday afternoon.
The two discussed the need for diplomatic progress in Syria after the recent suspension of the United Nations peace talks. After the half-hour meeting, Kerry thanked the foreign minister for his country’s “solid effort” in supporting opposition forces in Syria and its readiness to intensify the fight.
Saudi Arabia “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,” Saudi Defense Ministry spokesman Ahmed Asiri said Thursday in an interview with Saudi-owned Al Arabiya News Channel.
The U.S. is waiting for Saudi Arabia to clarify the type of military support it is offering — whether combat soldiers or special operations forces, Kirby said. The U.S. has sent a small number of special operations forces into Syria as trainers for rebel forces.
Meanwhile, Canada rolled back its involvement in the multi-nation coalition. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that his country would no longer bomb targets in Iraq and Syria and would withdraw its six jets from the region.
The U.S.-led coalition has conducted a total of more than 10,000 airstrikes against targets in Iraq and Syria as of Wednesday, according to the State Department. Twelve other countries have participated in the strikes, including Saudi assistance in Syrian strikes.
After his closed door meeting with Kerry, the Saudi foreign minister said his country is dedicated to an American partnership in reducing a conflict that has destabilized the Middle East.
“We have a tremendous stake in trying to resolve the problems in the region before they consume all of us,” Al-Jubeir said. “We are determined to work with out allies in the United States and our allies around the world to bring this about.”