More than 30 nations fighting Islamic State will meet in Washington, D.C. on November 14 in a French-initiated meeting as the United States pulls troops from Syria, a U.S. official said Monday.
Ministers from nations in the Coalition will “look at the next steps to increase the coalition presence in northeast Syria,” the official told reporters on October 28 on condition of anonymity.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called for an urgent meeting of the Coalition after President Donald Trump told Turkey earlier this month that he would withdraw U.S. troops from northeast Syria.
The U.S. official cast the meeting as a way to seek more support from allies – a key priority for Trump, who often accuses U.S. partners of being free-loaders.
“This is something President Trump has been working on, both to get troops on the ground, airplanes in the air and money flowing to stabilization in that area from our partners and allies who are in the coalition,” the official said.
The official noted pointedly that no European allies have stepped forward to send in troops to replace departing U.S. forces.
A Western official told The Defense Post in June that France and the United Kingdom pledged to send limited numbers of troops to Syria, but U.S. officials including James Jeffrey, the envoy to the Coalition, have declined to publicly acknowledge the move.
The meeting announcement came after Trump on Sunday announced the killing of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in an attack in Syria led by U.S. Special Forces.
France has begun asking its European partners to send special forces to the Sahel region to assist and improve the basic training for local forces. France is hoping to form a new Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force under French command.
Trump’s withdrawal from Syria has alarmed European allies fearful of a resurgence of the intensely violent group, especially as the SDF has been guarding ISIS prisoners.
The U.S. has said that more than 100 ISIS prisoners have escaped in the chaos as the U.S. withdrew and Turkey launched an incursion against the SDF, whom Ankara links the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long insurgency inside Turkey.
With reporting from AFP