The United States is going to provide the Kurd forces in Syria with heavier weapons as they prepare to attack the key Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, U.S. officials said Tuesday.
The Trump Administration’s decision is not being met with much happiness in Turkey as the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan views the Syrian Kurdish group also known as the YPG is an extension of Kurdish terrorist organization that operates in Turkey.
The U.S. sees the Kurds as its most effective battlefield partner against IS in northern and eastern Syria.
After lengthy deliberations, the administration approved plans to provide additional weaponry to the Kurds. A full list wasn’t immediately available, but officials had indicated in recent days that 120mm mortars, machines guns, ammunition and light armored vehicles were possibilities. They said the U.S. would not provide artillery or surface-to-air missiles.
The U.S. officials who disclosed the Trump administration decision weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the matter and demanded anonymity. They described no firm timeline, with the American intention to provide the new weapons to the Syrian Kurds as soon as possible.
Senior U.S. officials including Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have met repeatedly with Turkish officials to try to work out an arrangement for the Raqqa assault that would be acceptable to Ankara. The Turks have insisted that the Syrian Kurds be excluded from that operation, but U.S. officials insisted there was no real alternative.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to visit President Donald Trump in Washington next week. An Erdogan adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, met on Tuesday with Thomas Shannon, the State Department No. 2 official.
Back in April, the Turks launched an airstrike on the Kurds’ bases in Syria and Iraq. The Turkish military said it killed at least 90 militants and wounded many others. The Kurds released a statement saying that 20 of its fighters and media activists were killed in the strike, which was followed by cross-border clashes.
US military officials feel, and rightfully so, that this won’t help the cause of moving the ISIS group out of Raqqa.
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