After doing the lion’s share of the fighting in capturing the Syrian city of Raqqa, the Kurds are getting bad news. President Trump announced that the US will no longer be arming the Syrian Kurds in a phone call to the Turkish President.
That move is another blow for the Kurdish people who have been doing the majority of the fighting in clearing the Islamic State from large areas of Syria. But it is good news for the Turkish government who view the Kurds as terrorists.
In a phone call Friday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Trump said he’d “given clear instructions” that the Kurds receive no more weapons — “and that this nonsense should have ended a long time ago,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. The White House confirmed the move in a cryptic statement about the phone call that said Trump had informed the Turks of “pending adjustments to the military support provided to our partners on the ground in Syria.”
The move could help ease strained tensions between the U.S. and Turkey, two NATO allies that have been sharply at odds about how best to wage the fight against Islamic State. Turkey considers the Kurdish Syrian fighters, known by the initials YPG, to be terrorists because of their affiliation to outlawed Kurdish rebels that have waged a three decade-long insurgency in Turkey. Yet the U.S. chose to partner with the YPG in Syria anyway, arguing that the battle-hardened Kurds were the most effective fighting force available.
Cavusoglu, who said he was in the room with Erdogan during Trump’s call, quoted the U.S. president as saying he had given instructions to U.S. generals and to national security advisor H.R. McMaster that “no weapons would be issued.”
“Of course, we were very happy with this,” Cavusoglu said.
It appears that both the Pentagon and Kurds were caught by surprise by this announcement by the President. The US has been arming, training, and advising the Kurds, who comprise the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces). There are several hundred US Special Operations troops currently embedded with the SDF in Syria.
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