The magazine Foreign Policy (FP) is reporting the United Kingdom, France and some Baltic and Balkan states have agreed to increase special forces elements in Syria. It comes as a major victory for the Trump administration after it decided to pull troops out of Syria. Officially, the U.K. and France do not acknowledge having any ground presence in Syria.
However, the decision to increase troop numbers by 10 to 15% comes with a catch, namely, the United States government would have to pay for it, a U.S. government official told FP. France and the U.K. are the only other U.S. partners with some ground forces still there. It is interesting though that Turkey (a NATO member) is not seen as U.S partner in the report.
The French embassy responded, “Officially, France has no troops on the ground in Syria,” and declined to comment further to FP. British officials have yet to comment. However, in a recent interview James Jeffrey, the top U.S. envoy to Syria, commented on the improving negotiations with coalition forces to increase pressure against the Islamic State.
In a recent interview with Defense One, Jeffrey stated: “Our expectation is, the slack will be taken up by coalition forces – and we are getting a very encouraging response from them.”
Due to recent incidents in and around the Strait of Hormuz, the U.S. State Department and the Department of Defense launched the Sentinel initiative. Sentinel will offer robust security measures to combat Iranian aggression in the strait and several other choke points. Although skeptics have underscored the lack of interest from allies, the British and French governments have shown interest in participating.
Some analysts have reacted with skepticism towards word Baltic and Balkan states would like to participate. However, these nations have often sent their special operations forces, which are small in number but very capable. Furthermore, it is also important to mention that these nations are dealing with an aggressive Russia on their borders. On the other hand, countries like Germany have flat out denied increasing troop numbers and prefer to continue combat supporting roles.