Published: Wed, May 10, 2017
Life&Culture | By Kristin Armstrong

Pentagon says it will arm Syrian Kurds, despite Turkey's objections

Pentagon says it will arm Syrian Kurds, despite Turkey's objections

She said Mattis spoke with his Turkish counterpart, Fikri Isik, by telephone to reiterate a USA commitment to "protecting our North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally".

White provided no details on what kind of weaponry would be provided to the Kurdish fighters or when.

Even with the extra USA weaponry, the Kurds and their Syrian Arab partners are expected to face a hard and perhaps lengthy fight for control of Raqqa, which has been key to the extremists' state-building project.

The Turkish government considers the YPG to be an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party, known by the acronym PKK, that has conducted terrorist attacks inside Turkey.

"We had forces within six miles of the strikes", Dorrian said. Already, the YPG has received air support from the United States and, indirectly through Arab fighters, some USA weaponry.

Later, Mr. Cevik attempted to walk back his comments on social media regarding USA forces working with Kurdish militias. A Turkish delegation briefly met with President Trump on Monday, according to a report in the Turkish Daily Sabah newspaper.

There has been wide support from senior USA military officials to provide direct arms to Syrian Kurdish forces, but sensitivities about Turkish opposition has delayed such a decision. Basat Ozturk, a senior Turkish defense official, participated.

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"This will not be micromanaged like it was during the Obama administration", said one official, referring to the prior administration's close review of arms to other Syrian rebels.

The YPG includes the Syrian Democratic Forces of Arab, Christian and Turkmen fighters.

Previous year the Obama administration authorized the supply of small arms, ammunition and vehicles to Arab forces aligned with the SDF.

"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. "That's not to say we all walk into the room with same appreciation of the problem".

The U.S. officials who disclosed the Trump administration decision weren't authorized to publicly discuss the matter and demanded anonymity. The SDF is expected to spearhead the coming assault on the Islamic State capital of Raqqa.

"We were troubled by that", Air Force Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said of Turkey's failure to give adequate warning of airstrikes in the Hasaka area.

There are now more than 1,000 American service members in Syria, after the Pentagon sent about 400 additional Marines to Syria in March to prepare for the Raqqa offensive. The arms, ammunition and vehicles will be delivered in an incremental fashion. Both are likely to be needed if Kurdish troops are to successfully penetrate Raqqa, well fortified by Islamic State militants.

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