Riyadh: Saudi Arabia says it is ready to join any ground operation the US-led coalition launches against Islamic State (IS) fighters in Syria.
“If there is any willingness in the coalition to go in the ground operation, we will contribute positively in that,” Brigadier General Ahmed al Assiri told Saudi-owned al Arabiya TV.
Brigadier Assiri, a spokesman for the Saudi-led Arab coalition battling Iran-allied Houthis in Yemen, said the Kingdom is an active member of the coalition fighting IS in Syria, and had carried out more than 190 bombing raids there since 2014.
But he believes the only way to defeat the extremist group is to put boots on the ground.
“If there was a consensus from the leadership of the coalition, the Kingdom is willing to participate in these efforts because we believe that aerial operations are not the ideal solution and there must be a twin mix of aerial and ground operations,” he added.
Asked about the comments at a briefing, US State Department spokesman John Kirby said the coalition is supportive of partners contributing more in the fight against IS, but said he had not yet seen the Saudi proposal.
“I would not want to comment specifically on this until we’ve had a chance to review it,” he added.
Last month, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said several members of the coalition are doing “nothing at all” to help destroy the jihadis. America has carried out the bulk of the 9,800 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since the summer of 2014.
In November, the United Arab Emirates, which is carrying out airstrikes against IS in Syria and Iraq, said it was ready to send ground troops to Syria. There have been growing calls for the anti-IS coalition to send land forces to Syria, after Russia launched airstrikes in late September.
US senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have called for 100,000 soldiers, mostly from Sunni states but also including Americans, to fight IS in Syria.