Saudi Arabia has agreed to host training camps for moderate Syrian rebels as part of President Barack Obama's broad strategy to combat Islamic State militants who have taken over parts of Syria and Iraq, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.
Obama announced he had authorized stepped-up U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and for the first time would extend the aerial assault into Syria, where he also vowed to beef up support for moderate rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
U.S. officials said a critical component of the plan to train and equip the Syrian insurgents, who have received only modest American backing so far and have failed to coalesce into a potent fighting force, was the Saudis' willingness to allow use of their territory for the U.S. training effort.
"Now what we have is a commitment from the kingdom of Saudi Arabia ... to be a full partner with us in that effort, including by hosting that training program," a senior U.S. official told reporters in a conference call.
The Saudi decision came to light after Obama spoke by phone earlier in the day with Saudi King Abdullah.