U.S. Push for Germany to Send Ground Troops to Syria

Soldiers of a German honor guard are pictured during a military ceremony for newly accredited US Ambassador Richard Allen Grenell in Berlin, Germany, on May 08, 2018. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP) (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty

Germany has been asked by the U.S. to step up and join the battle against Islamic State terrorists in Syria, as Washington looks to NATO allies to share the load in the fight against terror.

“We want ground troops from Germany to partly replace our soldiers in the area as part of the anti-Islamic State coalition,” U.S. special representative on Syria James Jeffrey told German media including the Die Welt newspaper.

Jeffrey, who was visiting Berlin for Syria talks, added he expects an answer on his request for more Bundeswehr input later this month. He is in no doubt about the task ahead, saying:

The IS can be pushed back better with Syrian local forces. But you need a certain international presence to provide air support for logistics, training and technical assistance. Without stability, the ‘Islamic State’ or similar groups will return. We want to finally destroy ISIS, we want a United Nations-led process of political reform of Syria, and we want Iran’s complete withdrawal from the country.

Washington is also pushing for increased military support from other members of the international coalition against Islamic State

“We are looking for volunteers who want to take part here and among other coalition partners,” Jeffrey said.

Johann Wadephul, an ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has called for Berlin to consider the request.

Wadephul, deputy leader of the parliamentary caucus of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU), told DPA on Sunday the request shouldn’t be “rejected in a knee-jerk reaction.”

“In this region, it’s about our security and not American security,” said Wadephul, who could possibly be a successor to German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen should she leave for Brussels to become the new European Commission president.

The U.S. is hoping Europe will help, pressuring Britain, France and now Germany, which has so far deployed one surveillance aircraft on rotation and other non-combat military support in Syria but little else.

Donald Trump has repeatedly urged Berlin to increase its defence spending, last month calling Germany “delinquent” over its contributions to NATO’s budget, and now the push is on for it to contribute more to global security.

In 2018 Washington spent nearly $700 billion on defence, compared with just $280 billion for all the European NATO allies combined.

AFP contributed to this report

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