Intel chiefs: Saudi, UAE offers of ground troops against ISIS welcome, unlikely to help
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates may not have the capabilities to contribute significantly to the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), two intelligence chiefs said Tuesday.
“I do not assess that the Saudi ground forces would have either the capacity to take this fight on,” Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The Emiratis, very capable, acquitted themselves well in Yemen. They lack the capacity to take on additional fight elsewhere.”
Ahead of this week’s Brussels meeting of defense ministers from the entire coalition fighting ISIS, Saudi Arabia and the UAE both said they’d be willing to send in ground troops to Syria.
The Obama administration has long sought more help from coalition partners, particularly Sunni Arab countries U.S. officials feel could better maintain stability after the defeat of ISIS.
Stewart and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Tuesday while Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s offers are welcome, they questions whether either would be effective.
The UAE’s forces have proven very capable, particularly in its counterterrorism in Yemen, they said.
But the UAE is small and may not be able to handle both Yemen and Syria, they added.
“Whether they have the capacity to do both Yemen and something in Iraq-Syria is questionable for me,” Stewart said. “I think they’re doing extremely well in Yemen, but their capacity to do more is pretty limited.”
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, would have even more of a struggle, Clapper and Stewart said.
“I certainly appreciate and value the Saudi willingness to engage on the ground, I think that would be a challenge for them if they try to take that on,” Clapper said.
Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia also put a prerequisite on their offers that they would need American leadership before making a commitment to ground troops.
Clapper said he interpreted that as meaning wanting the U.S. command control capability.