US Confirms Arming of Kurdish Militia YPG

By  Scott Lucas – May 10, 2017 – eaworldview – The US has confirmed it is providing arms to the Kurdish militia YPG (PYD/PKK)  in Syria, despite Turkish objections.American officials said Donald Trump, after months of debate, approved the deliveries for an offensive against the Islamic State in the city of Raqqa, ISIS’s center in northern Syria. The Pentagon said the weapons would be provided
“as necessary to ensure a clear victory”.

One U.S. official said the equipment for the YPG could include small arms, ammunition, machine guns, armored vehicles, and engineering equipment.The Military Times reported on Sunday that the US is providing the YPG with sophisticated American combat equipment, night-vision goggles, rifles, and advanced optics used by American special operations forces and the foreign commando units they train.

The US has backed the Syrian Democratic Forces, led by the YPG, since the SDF was formed in autumn 2015 to fight ISIS. Washington has provided arms and supplies, and US special forces have been photographed with the force. However, Tuesday’s announcement is the first confirmation by Trump officials of the arrangements.

Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist group linked to the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK, which has battled Turkish security forces for more than 30 years. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said he considers the YPG and PKK “terrorist hubs” which must be eliminated.Ankara launched airstrikes on both groups in late April, killing up to 30 YPG fighters in northeastern Syria. The US responded with a high-profile movement of armored vehicles and personnel along the Turkish-Syrian border, in a show of support for the YPG.

US Tries to Balance YPG Support With Assurances to Turkey

Top Turkish officials, including head of armed forces General Hulusi Akar, met American counterparts on Monday in the White House. Akar briefly saw Trump.

On Tuesday, Defense Secretary James Mattis called Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik. There was no indication of Isik’s response, but the Pentagon said that both “affirmed their support for peace and stability in both Iraq and Syria.”“We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey,” said Dana White, the chief Pentagon spokeswoman. “We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the US is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally.” White said the US would still give priority to arming Arab fighters within the Syrian Democratic Forces, with equipment
provided “incrementally as objectives are reached”.

Mattis told reporters before the announcement, after a meeting in Denmark with members of the anti-Islamic State coalition, “Our intent is to work with the Turks, alongside one another, to take Raqqa down, and we’re going to sort it out and we’ll figure out how we’re going to do it.”

TOP PHOTO: A US commander with Kurdish militia YPG colleagues after Turkish bombing of a YPG site in northeast Syria, April 25, 2017