US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter says the NATO military alliance may join a coalition purportedly targeting Daesh Takfiri militants in Syria and Iraq.
“Thanks to the leadership of NATO Jens Stoltenberg we are exploring the possibility of NATO joining the coalition as a member itself,” Carter said on Thursday after a meeting with the coalition members in Brussels.
All of NATO’s 28 members are individually part of the US-led coalition that has been conducting air raids in Syria since 2014.
On Thursday, Stoltenberg said NATO had deployed three military vessels to the Aegean Sea to carry out reconnaissance and surveillance operations for what he called countering human trafficking amid the refugee crisis in Europe.
“This is about helping Greece, Turkey and the European Union with stemming the flow of migrants and refugees and coping with a very demanding situation,” he said.
On the sidelines of the Brussels meeting, Carter also met with Saudi Defense Minister and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, whose country is also a member of the coalition.
Peter Cook, Carter’s spokesman, said Saudi Arabia proposed to expand its role in the US-led air campaign.
Riyadh has expressed readiness to deploy special forces to Syria if the US-led coalition decides to deploy ground troops. Bahrain and the UAE also followed in Riyadh’s footsteps and hinted at their preparedness for similar deployments.
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