USA to equip Kurdish fighters in Syria

USA to equip Kurdish fighters in Syria

Ankara sees the Kurdish fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces - known as the YPG - as closely linked to the PKK, an internationally designated terror group that has carried out attacks against Turkey.

President Donald Trump authorized the Department of Defense to arm Syrian Kurds in the fight against the Islamic State on Monday, a decision which is likely to anger Turkey, a another key ally in the fight.

The United States continues to prioritize its support for Arab elements of the SDF, she said, adding that Raqqa and all liberated territory should return to the governance of local Syrian Arabs.

Just days after the Turkish defense minister's visit to Washington, almost two-dozen Turkish jets bombed three areas in northeast Syria and Iraq, killing roughly 20 members of the Syrian Kurdish fighters of the YPG.

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Mr. Erdogan has routinely lambasted the White House for its battlefield support of Kurdish groups such as Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG. Ankara, the capital of Turkey sees the move as an extension of PKK militia, carrying out an uprising on Turkish soil.

Even with the extra USA weaponry, the Kurds and their Syrian Arab partners are expected to face a hard and perhaps lengthy fight for control of Raqqa, which has been key to the extremists' state-building project.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday he had useful discussions with Turkey and the two countries are working out differences over a US alliance with Syrian Kurds in fighting Islamic State militants.

"We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the U.S.is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally", according to the statement.

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Previous year the Obama administration authorized the supply of small arms, ammunition and vehicles to Arab forces aligned with the SDF.

Mattis sounded upbeat on the relationship with Turkey, but it was not clear if the arming of the Kurds had come up in the discussion. The issue has come to a head now because battlefield progress this year has put the USA -backed Syrian Democratic Forces almost in position attack IS in Raqqa, although they are still attempting to isolate the city.

"The resulting clashes required U.S. Army Rangers to intervene - including by openly flying American flags from their armored vehicles - to separate the forces".

Previously however, Turkey has shown a prickly reaction to the USA backing Kurds in Syria.

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The Pentagon has long desired to have Arab elements of the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) compose the ideal assault force for the upcoming Raqqa operation over the Kurds.

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