A delegation of US senators led by John McCain has met with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince in the kingdom, where talks were focused on the training of Syrian rebel fighters.
The meetings took place on Saturday, a day after the Pentagon said that as many as 1,000 US troops and support personnel would be sent to sites in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to help train “moderate Syrian rebels”.
The US senators who are part of the delegation all sit on the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, which McCain chairs.
Rear Admiral John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said the training by a mix of US special operations forces and conventional US troops could begin as early as spring.
A message on the official Twitter feed for McCain said that the US delegation also met with the former head of the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition, Ahmed al-Jarba, and the commander of Saudi Arabia’s training and equipment programme.
They also met in neighbouring Qatar with Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the country’s emir. The official Qatar News Agency said they discussed “Qatari-US relations and means to develop them”.
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) January 18, 2015
Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, also is part of a US-led coalition conducting airstrikes against ISIL, which has taken over parts of Syria and Iraq.
Bahrain has taken part in the airstrikes as well, while Qatar has provided logistical support and Kuwait has provided a base for Canadian forces involved in the airstrikes.
Saudi Crown Prince Salman, who is also Saudi Arabia’s defence minister, has increasingly taken on a greater public role over the past year.