US asks Germany to send ground troops into Syria, aid anti-ISIS fight

The United States has asked Germany to support the fight against remnants of the Islamic State by sending ground troops to support the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, in northeastern Syria.

James Jeffrey, U.S. special envoy for Syria and the anti-ISIS coalition, wants the German government to send training forces, logistical experts and technical workers from the Bundeswehr.

“We want ground troops from Germany to partly replace our soldiers,” Jeffrey told dpa and the German weekly Welt am Sonntag. He said he expects an answer before the end of the month.

U.S. forces have been supporting the SDF alliance, which includes the Kurdish YPG militia and other rebel groups. In March, SDF forces captured the last bastion of ISIS in Syria, though the radical Islamists have remained active under ground.

President Donald Trump in December announced plans to pull all 2,000 U.S. soldiers out of northeastern Syria. He later backtracked and said that 400 will stay to help stabilize the Kurdish region, which straddles the border between Iraq and Syria.

The U.S. has since been working to secure more support from the 80 allies in the anti-ISIS coalition, including Germany, as U.S. forces begin to draw down.

“We are looking here and among the other coalition partners for volunteers to participate,” the special envoy said after talks in Berlin on Friday. “We believe we will be successful in the end.”

Germany has been supporting the anti-ISIS coalition from outside the country, supplying Tornado reconnaissance planes and a refueling plane out of Jordan, as well as training forces in Iraq.

The mission was supposed to end Oct. 31, but German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas made clear during an Iraq visit last month that it could be extended. Germany’s parliament, which has to approve any extension, will take up the matter in September at the earliest.

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