'Blackwater founder Erik Prince says he has been informally contacted by Arab officials looking to marshal a multi-national force in Syria which would be able to fill any "security vacuum" left by a United States withdrawal - similar to the one which allowed ISIS to flourish when President Obama pulled US troops out of Iraq.
The security force would have two goals: stop ISIS from reestablishing a presence in Syria, while also stopping Iran or Iranian-backed sources from doing the same (though Israel already has the latter pretty well under control).
The mission of the regional force would be to work with the local Kurdish and Arab fighters the U.S. has been supporting to ensure Islamic State cannot make a comeback and preclude Iranian-backed forces from moving into former Islamic State territory, U.S. officials say. -WSJ
Filling the void
As we reported yesterday, President Trump has already reached out to Egypt and the Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, to contribute funds and manpower for the restoration of areas in Syria formerly held by the Islamic State.
“We have asked our partners to take greater responsibility for securing their home region, including contributing larger amounts of money,” he said. “America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria,” Trump said last Friday. “It’s a troubled place. We will try to make it better. But it’s a troubled place.”
While Trump and his advisors say they want to withdraw the 2,000 or so US troops in Syria as soon as possible, according to the Wall Street Journal, Trump's new neocon National Security Advisor John Bolton has discussed the possibility of contributing troops with Egypt's top intelligence official - allegedly one of the most influential figures in Egypt's military-led regime.
Pentagon officials say that while ISIS has lost around 90% of their foothold in Syria, it still remains strong in pockets along the border with Iraq and others - home to an estimated 5,000 - 12,000 ISIS fighters.
Thomas Joscelyn, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told VICE News that while it made sense for the U.S. to ask Arab partners to do more, "this nascent plan is likely to run into a number of problems."
None of the proposed partners had taken the lead in fighting ISIS in Syria so far, with that role occupied by the Kurds — a group who Joscelyn noted "are not natural allies for any of the regional states mentioned." -VICE
Jocelyn notes that the Gulf states have provided support for Sunni extremist groups - making them an "unnatural fit" for the fight against ISIS. Meanwhile, while Egypt hasn't officially picked a side in the Syrian conflict, it has made occasional pro-Assad statements.'
Read more: Blackwater Founder May Train Arab Forces To Dominate Syria