Reports say that US President Donald Trump demanded for $4 billion from Saudi Arabia to rebuild the area liberated in Syria.
The request by Trump, was made in a December when he placed a phone call Saudi Arabia’s King Salman,
According to Washington Post, Trump had an idea he thought could hasten a U.S. exit from Syria.
The White House wants money from the kingdom and other nations to help rebuild and stabilize the parts of Syria that the U.S. military and its local allies have liberated from the Islamic State, the newspaper reported.
The post-war goal is to prevent Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian partners from claiming the areas, or the Islamic State from regrouping, while U.S. forces finish mopping up the militants.
The Saudis, whose crown prince arrives in Washington on Monday for extensive meetings with the administration, are part of the anti-Islamic State coalition but have largely withdrawn from the fight in Syria in recent years.
They are questioning the eye-popping sum even as U.S. officials at one point were drawing up line items totaling $4 billion.
A $4 billion Saudi contribution would go a long way toward U.S. goals in Syria that the Saudis say they share, particularly that of limiting Assad’s power and rolling back Iran’s influence. By comparison, the United States last month announced a $200 million donation to the stabilization effort.
At the same time, Trump is eager to get the United States out of a war in which he has already claimed that victory over the Islamic State is near. Boasting of the Islamic State’s defeat in a speech Tuesday to U.S. troops in California, he said, “We knocked the hell out of them.”
“We won’t let up until ISIS is completely destroyed,” Trump said, using an acronym for the militants. “ISIS never thought this would happen. They never got hit like this.”
Pentagon policy dating back to the Obama administration has limited U.S. involvement in the civil war in Syria almost exclusively to fighting the Islamic State through proxy forces backed by American troops.
The fight has been successful. But despite the rollback of Islamic State territory, the increasing likelihood of an Assad victory in the civil war has left many U.S. policymakers and lawmakers aghast and the U.S. mission in Syria jumbled and confused.
Gen. Joseph L. Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees the Middle East, was asked in congressional testimony Tuesday whether Assad, with Iranian and Russian help, had already won.
“I do not think that is too strong of a statement,” Votel replied. “I think they have provided him with the wherewithal to be ascendant at this point.”
The question is an important one, since the second phase of current U.S. strategy in Syria, after defeating the Islamic State, is to promote a political settlement of the war that ultimately includes the exit of both Assad and Iran.
U.S. commanders have said their military mission in Syria remains limited to defeating the Islamic State. But some administration officials have begun characterizing the U.S. presence more broadly, suggesting that it must serve as a bulwark against Iran, ensure stability in liberated territory and bolster American aims in any future political settlement.