RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Military chiefs from 26 nations involved in the U.S.-led coalition battling the Islamic State group began a two-day meeting in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
SPA said the meeting was aimed at giving military leaders an opportunity to exchange views about the fight against the extremist group, which controls large parts of Iraq and Syria.
The head of the U.S. military's Central Command, Gen. Lloyd Austin, was taking part in the meeting and earlier met with Interior Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
The Arab countries of Jordan, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have taken part in coalition air raids on the IS group. Qatar and Kuwait have provided bases for coalition partners. Other nations taking part include Canada, France, Germany, the U.K., Australia and the Netherlands.
The SPA said the military chiefs would also discuss the civil war in Syria, where more than 220,000 people have been killed over the last four years. It is the fifth meeting of its kind for the coalition, with previous meetings taking place in Jordan, France, Germany and the U.S.
Saudi Arabia has helped arm rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad, despite concerns that weapons caches have been seized by IS group fighters and al-Qaida.
Washington is planning a new program to vet and train Syrian rebels, though critics say it will not be enough to significantly boost the more moderate forces on the ground. The Pentagon said last month that as many as 1,000 U.S. troops and trainers would be sent to sites in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar for the program, which is slated to start in the spring.