Over the heated objections of the government in Turkey, President Trump has authorized the delivery of arms to Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria.
On the vanguard of ground operations against the Islamic State (ISIS), Kurdish groups are on the cusp of launching operations to retake Raqqa from ISIS. The terror group’s de-facto capital since 2015, Raqqa is among the last of ISIS’ strongholds in Syria.
In a written statement released by the Pentagon, chief Defense Department spokesman Dana White indicated the U.S. had decided to arm Kurdish YPG affiliated with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
“(Trump approved a plant to) equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces as necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIS,” he wrote.
White added the Kurdish YPG appear to be the most reliable ally to defeat the Islamic State.
Although the Pentagon did not specify the types of lethal aid to be delivered, it is speculated among the weapons expected to be shipped are light infantry weapons, large caliber mortars and light armored vehicles. The Defense Department did rule out heavier armored vehicles, artillery and missile defense systems.
While noting Defense Secretary James Mattis had spoken to Turkish Minister of National Defense Fikri Işık to discuss Trump’s decision to arm Kurdish YPG, no details were released and Turkey has not publicly commented on the matter. Turkey and the U.S. are now facing a low in diplomatic relations.
Ankara’s resistance to the U.S. arming of Kurdish groups revolves largely around the YPG’s links to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PPK), which has waged a guerrilla war against Turkey for over three decades. Turkey has declared the PPK a terrorist organization.
Just weeks ago, Turkish aircraft killed YPG troops during an aerial attack in northern Syria. Ankara claimed it was targeting PPK troops. U.S. troops now occupy positions shared with Kurdish YPG along the Turkish-Syrian border to prevent further Turkish attacks.
Turkish President Recep Erdogan similarly opposes American arms to Kurdish YPG over its announced political intent to create its own state, Rojava, in northern Syria. Erdogan fears American arms will sustain YPG beyond the conflict with ISIS.
[BBC] [AP] [Photo courtesy Redspark]