Published: Wed, May 10, 2017
Culture | By Henry Herrera

White House Approves Arms For Kurdish YPG Fighters

White House Approves Arms For Kurdish YPG Fighters

Despite fierce opposition from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey, the White House will support an operation to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State.

The decision is meant to accelerate the Raqqa operation but undermines the Turkish government's view that the Syrian Kurdish group known as the YPG is an extension of a Kurdish terrorist organization that operates in Turkey.

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". Already, the YPG has received air support from the United States and, indirectly through Arab fighters, some U.S. weaponry.

The Obama administration had approved military support for the YPG and other Kurdish militias in early 2015, as they fought to drive the Islamic State from the Syrian town of Kobane, which straddles the Turkish border.

Turkish officials have privately acknowledged that the matter appeared to be decided.

There was no immediate reaction from Turkey, whose president, Tayyip Erdogan, is expected to meet Trump in Washington next week. A Turkish delegation briefly met with President Trump on Monday, according to a report in the Turkish Daily Sabah newspaper.

While White did not mention the kinds of arms to be provided to the Kurds, other officials had indicated in recent days that 120mm mortars, machines guns, ammunition and light armored vehicles were possibilities. Basat Ozturk, a senior Turkish defense official, participated. That force, U.S. officials have said, will be comprised of the Arab fighters who are part of the Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces.

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The US sees the 50,000-strong Syrian Democratic Forces as the most effective force fighting ISIS in Syria and has armed the non-Kurdish Arab elements of that group for some time.

"There have been bad episodes in the relationship between the United States and Turkey, but this one is serious because it gets to the heart of Turkish security priorities", said Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

The Pentagon defended Trump's decision, claiming the SDF are the only ground force available that is capable of retaking Raqqa, ISIS's de facto capital.

"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 told a news conference, after defence talks with members of the USA -led coalition battling IS.

"We're going to sort it out", Mattis said.

In Denmark, Mattis was asked about the way forward with Turkey over the Raqqa issue. "That's not to say we all walk into the room with same appreciation of the problem".

He sounded upbeat on the relationship with Turkey, but it was not clear if the arming of the Kurds had come up in the discussion. However, over the last several weeks, Ankara has conducted a unilateral air campaign against Kurdish targets in Syria.

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