Government forces chat near a tank three kilometres from the Shiite villages of Nabbul and Zahra in Syria's northern Aleppo province which have been under siege by the Islamic State (IS) group for three years. Image Credit: AFP

Abu Dhabi: The UAE said on Sunday it backs sending ground troops as part of an international coalition to fight against Daesh, a top official said yesterday.

“Our position throughout has been that a real campaign against Daesh has to include genuine political process [in Iraq] and a ground force,” Dr Anwar Mohammad Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said at a news conference in Abu Dhabi.

Dr Gargash ruled out the possibility of sending large number of troops. “We are not talking about thousands of troops. We are talking of troops to lead the operation. And we are talking of troops to train.”

Dr Gargash added that “American leadership on this” would be a prerequisite for the US allies in the fight against Daesh.

Saudi Arabia has offered for the first time to send ground troops to Syria to fight Daesh, the kingdom’s defence ministry said on Thursday.

“The kingdom is ready to participate in any ground operations that the coalition [against Daesh] may agree to carry out in Syria,” said military spokesman Brigadier General Ahmad Al Assiri during an interview with Al Arabiya TV news.

Saudi sources told the Guardian that thousands of special forces could be deployed, probably in coordination with Turkey.

Dr Theodore Karasik, a UAE-based analyst of regional geopolitical affairs, said the UAE’s intent to send a contingent of highly specialised ground troops as part of the proposed alliance against Daesh is significant.

“Last year, the UAE made its first announcement that such a move would be possible if the ground situation in Syria and Iraq [where Daesh is active and holds large swathes of land] demanded such an intervention,” Dr Karasik said.

Dr Karasik said the announcement in December 2015 by Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman of an Islamic military alliance, followed by the visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Riyadh to cement the group illustrates the alignment of forces taking shape. The UAE is part of this new alliance.

Dr Karasik argued that the caveat of the ground force under US-led command, at this time, shows that the UAE is taking seriously the Obama Administration’s outlook that Arab forces should be the ones fighting on the ground. Whether the United States will lead such a contingent is subject to many questions. But what is clear, he said, is that the new alliance is taking shape.