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Report: U.S. wants Arab force to replace American troops in Syria

Syrian Army soldiers advance in an area on the eastern outskirts of Douma
Syrian Army soldiers in the eastern outskirts of Douma. Photo: Stringer/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration is reportedly looking to assemble an Arab force in Syria that would replace U.S. military troops and help bring stability to the region after the eradication of ISIS, the WSJ reports citing U.S. officials.

Why it matters: President Trump has been eager to pull U.S. troops out of Syria, and has said he believes other countries should take greater responsibility for restoring the northeastern part of the country. However, after the recent chemical attacks on Syrian civilians, it's been unclear what the administration will decide next.

Details: According to the WSJ, Trump's new national security adviser, John Bolton, called Egypt's acting intelligence chief to probe whether the country would help stabilize the region. The administration has also reportedly asked Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates to contribute large amounts of money to the effort.

Yes, but: Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, said the goal of creating an Arab force would be difficult "because Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. are involved militarily in Yemen, and Egypt would be reluctant to defend territory that wasn’t controlled by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad," per the WSJ. "Nor, he said, would Arab states be eager to send forces to Syria if the U.S. military didn’t agree to keep some troops there."

Haley Britzky 7 hours ago
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Extremist with ties to 9/11 captured by U.S.-backed Syrian forces

Fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) stand guard on a rooftop.
Fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces stand guard on a rooftop in Raqa on October 20, 2017. Photo: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a Syrian-born German extremist who is believed to have links to the 9/11 attacks, is being questioned by the Syrian Democratic Forces, NBC reported Wednesday, citing an AFP report, and CNN confirmed on Thursday.

Why it matters: Per CNN, Zammar "is believed to have recruited some of the perpetrators" for the 9/11 attacks. Zammar was "a well-known figure in the Muslim community (and to German and U.S. intelligence agencies by the late 1990s)," the 9/11 Commission Report stated, according to NBC. Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told CNN that Zammar "was captured more than a month ago by SDF partners as part of their ongoing operations to defeat ISIS inside Syria."

Dave Lawler 10 hours ago
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Trump and Kim's summit of surprises

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Mike Pompeo's secret visit to Pyongyang is the latest in a series of dramatic events in the run-up to the summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. It’s almost certainly not the last.

The big picture: "Part of this is normal, but we've got a wacky situation here," says Jim Walsh, an international security expert at MIT who has taken part in previous negotiations with North Korea. When it comes time to present a "final package," he adds, "surprises won't fly."