Trump Approves Plan to Arm Syrian Kurds

Camille Rivera
May 10, 2017

While there is no mention in the statement of arming the Kurds - it only calls to "equip" them - US defense officials told Fox News the plan includes supplying machine guns, small arms, ammunition, bulldozers and armored vehicles such as the M1117 Guardian.

President Trump has approved a plan to directly arm Kurdish forces fighting in Syria as part of a US military plan to capture Raqqa, the Syrian city that is the Islamic State's defacto capital, USA officials said on Tuesday.

Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) would be equipped to help drive IS from its stronghold, Raqqa, a spokeswoman said.

Trump is scheduled to meet his Turkish counterpart, President Recep Erdogan, at the White House next week.

The U.S. support for the SDF has been a major strain on relations between Washington and Ankara.

The decision to arm the Kurds was announced just hours after Pentagon chief Jim Mattis met with a Turkish official in Denmark at an anti-IS coalition summit.

Ankara views the Kurdish YPG militia, fighting within a larger US -backed coalition, as the Syrian extension of the Kurdish PKK militant group, which has fought an insurgency in southeastern Turkey since 1984.

The United States has long directly supplied arms to the Arab components of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, which include YPG fighters.

Tillerson said. "Once the ISIS threat has been reduced or eliminated, I think we can turn our attention directly to stabilizing the situation in Syria".

However, consideration of Turkey's opposition to arm the Kurdish forces delayed a decision by the Obama administration.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday he had useful discussions with Turkey and the two countries are working out differences over a USA alliance with Syrian Kurds in fighting Islamic State militants.

But a group of Kurdish fighters, commonly referred to as the People's Protection Units or YPG, is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, another US ally fighting ISIS.

Saleh Muslim, co-chair of the Syrian Kurdish PYD party, the YPG's political affiliate, said the US decision was expected.

"The YPG is an arm of the PKK".

As many as 1,000 USA troops are working alongside the SDF inside Syria.

The Pentagon said that it would continue prioritizing the arming of Arab forces in Syria, but acknowledged Ankara's concerns in the statement announcing the decision.

Turkey is also a key member of the Operation Inherent Resolve coalition fighting ISIS forces. Last month, Turkish warplanes launched assaults on Kurdish fighters in Iraq and Syria, killing more than a dozen people, and prompting a public condemnation from Washington.

"Our intent is to work with the Turks, alongside one another, to take Raqqa down, and we're going to sort it out and we'll figure out how we're going to do it", Mattis said.

Other reports by VideoGamingPros

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