Arab Countries Promise to Halt Flow of Fighters to ISIL

Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud listens to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry before a meeting Sept. 11, 2014, at the Royal Palace in Jiddah. Key Arab allies promised to "do their share" to fight Islamic State militants. Brendan Smialowski/AP
Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud listens to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry before a meeting Sept. 11, 2014, at the Royal Palace in Jiddah. Key Arab allies promised to "do their share" to fight Islamic State militants. Brendan Smialowski/AP

The White House on Friday stressed the importance that Arab and Muslim countries pledge to help defeat the Islamic State even though none of the nations appear ready to put their own boots on the ground against the terrorist organization.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Egypt. Jordan and Iraq agreed on Thursday to stop the flow of foreign fighters into Syria and Iraq, block financing of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and provide humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to places ravaged by their fighters.

The countries also said they would, "as appropriate, [join] in the many aspects of a coordinated military campaign."

So far the only combat forces expected to fight in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIL are those in the countries where the group is now operating -- Syria and Iraq.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest made no effort to explain whether the language of the agreement by the Arab countries meant any of the countries would provide troops, saying the partners would announce their contributions when ready.

"Every individual nation has their own calculation about what they're in a position to provide," he said. "But we are pleased by the initial reaction we've received [to the communiqué] from governments in the region and from our allies around the world."

The fight against ISIL currently is waged in Iraq, with Kurdish forces on the ground supported by American airstrikes. The Iraqi army is expected to play a greater role under the coalition after its retreat in the face of a much smaller ISIL forces in June.

The U.S. has recently deployed 475 troops to Iraq to train and equip Kurd and Iraqi troops, as well "develop targets" for airstrikes, a mission that would require Americans to operate on the ground with local forces.

The U.S. is also committed to continuing its use of airstrikes in the region, including in Syria in support of fighters there who oppose both ISIL and the government of Bashar al Assad. Obama, during a speech this week announcing the coalition effort, said he will ask Congress for $500 million to support the Free Syrian Army opposition fighters.

Obama has said repeatedly that the U.S. role will not include ground troops in Iraq, and that is the same case for Syria.

"Ultimately, the responsibility for taking the fight to ISIL on the ground in Syria has to be Syrian fighters'," Earnest said on Friday.

The U.K., France and Australia are considering conducting airstrikes against ISIL, according to a Telegraph report. Britain and Australia already fly humanitarian and other support missions to Kurdish forces.

Germany has made it clear it has no interest combat operations of any kind, but it has agreed to ship 16,000 assault rifles and heavy anti-tank weapons to the Kurds, the paper reported.

Longtime NATO ally Turkey did not sign the agreement and so far has agreed only to aid in humanitarian relief efforts and to try and stop foreign fighters from crossing into Syria from its borders.

Earnest said the coalition buildup is proceeding "in a robust fashion."

"This will be an ongoing effort by the United States to cultivate this coalition."

-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@monster.com

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