Trump's Decision To Arm The Kurds Sure To Anger Key NATO Ally

Trump's Decision To Arm The Kurds Sure To Anger Key NATO Ally

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

It is a move that has always been under consideration at the Pentagon but has been delayed due to strong opposition from American NATO ally Turkey.

The YPG, which dominates a diverse group of fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has emerged as the United States' premier partner force against the Islamic State in Syria.

The U.S. officials who disclosed the Trump administration decision weren't authorized to publicly discuss the matter and demanded anonymity.

The Kurdish contingent being equipped has "partnered with enabling support from USA and coalition forces, [and] are the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future", the statement adds. In her second statement she emphasized USA solidarity with Turkey and said the US does not envision a long-term Kurdish presence in Raqqa.

The Pentagon would like to arm the Syrian Kurds as part of the planned push to recapture Raqqa, but the Turks have been adamantly opposed.

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

The United States on Tuesday announced it would supply weapons and military equipment to Kurdish fighters battling ISIL in Syria, despite intense opposition from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey.

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Pressed about the matter, Mattis said he did not want to disclose USA battlefield plans but suggested confidence that Washington and Ankara would get past the impasse.

"The SDF, partnered with enabling support from US and coalition forces, are the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future", said Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White in a statement Tuesday.

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 USA ally fighting ISIS.

Other officials said Trump's authorization includes safeguards meant to reassure the Turks that the additional USA weaponry and equipment will not be used by the Kurds in Turkey.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, right, shakes hands with Danish Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen, during a press conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, Tuesday.

The intent is to restrict the distribution and use of the weaponry by permitting its use for specific battlefield missions and then requiring the Kurds to return it to USA control.

The Pentagon's announcement comes ahead of a scheduled meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Trump in Washington next week. An Erdogan adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, met on Tuesday with Thomas Shannon, the State Department No. 2 official.

"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. 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.

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