US Arming Syrian Kurds
By Carla Babb May 09, 2017
President Donald Trump has authorized the Pentagon to equip the Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a move that places the United States at odds with NATO ally Turkey.
Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Dana W. White said Tuesday the Kurdish component, which makes up more than half of the SDF fighters, would be armed "as necessary to ensure a clear victory" over Islamic State in Raqqa, Syria.
"The SDF, partnered with enabling support from U.S. and coalition forces, are the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future," White said.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer confirmed the green-lighted equipping plan. A military official told VOA the U.S. will provide Kurdish forces around Raqqa with small arms, machine guns, ammunition, armored vehicles to counter improvised explosive devices, and construction equipment.
"Weapons will be metered out to achieve limited military objectives," the military official said.
Ankara opposes Washington's alliance with Syrian Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State. Turkey contends the SDF's Syrian Kurdish militia, known as the YPG, is a terrorist group affiliated with the outlawed PKK – the Kurdistan Workers' Party, a terror group that has been battling the Turkish state for many years.
White said the Pentagon is "keenly aware" of Turkey's security concerns and reassured that the U.S. is committed to "preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally."
Turkey's top general, Hulusi Akar, met with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford on Friday. Lt. Commander John Fage, a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told VOA that Dunford and Akar "discussed issues of mutual concern, as well as the current security situation in the Middle East, including the campaign to defeat ISIS." ISIS is an acronym for Islamic State.
The latest White House authorization provides U.S. support for the entire Syrian Democratic Force, Syrian Kurds (YPG) and the Syrian Arab Coalition, which American forces have openly supported for months.
The SDF includes about 27,000 Kurdish fighters and about 23,000 Arab fighters.
"However, in the operation to isolate Raqqa, the preponderance of SDF forces there are Arab," Pentagon spokesman Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway told VOA.
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