Pentagon Reassures Turkey on Equipping Kurdish Elements in Syria
(Source: US Department of Defense; issued May 9, 2017)
WASHINGTON --- A Pentagon official today offered reassurances to Turkey following President Donald J. Trump's authorization yesterday for the Defense Department to equip Kurdish elements in Syria fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
In a statement, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White said the Syrian Democratic Forces, partnered with enabling support from U.S. and coalition forces, are the only force on the ground that can successfully seize control of the Syrian city of Raqqa in the near future.
"We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey," White said. "We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the U.S. is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally."
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.
"The fight for Raqqa will be long and difficult," she said, "but will ultimately be yet another defeat for ISIS and another step toward eliminating the ISIS threat to peace and security in the region and the world."
US to Arm Syrian Kurds Over Turkish Opposition
(Source: Deutsche Welle German Radio; issued May 09, 2017)
The White House has signed off on an order to arm Kurdish fighters whom Turkey classifies as terrorists. The US has doubled down on its position that Kurds provide crucial help in the fight against "Islamic State."
The administration of US President Donald Trump approved a measure on Tuesday supplying weapons to Kurdish fighters over the fierce objections of NATO ally Turkey. The Pentagon stressed that assisting the People's Protection Units (YPG) was "necessary to ensure a clear victory" against the last "Islamic State" stronghold in Syria.
The YPG is an ethnic Kurdish militia tied to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has led an on-and-off insurgency in south-eastern Turkey for three decades. It has been outlawed by Ankara as a terrorist organization.
"We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey," Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement. "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."
Pentagon: Kurds most effective against IS
The US has argued that local Kurdish fighters are some of the most effective partners in its coalition to defeat IS terrorists. Washington hopes to use the YPG to push the jihadists from Raqqa, their last stronghold in Syria.
YPG has allied itself with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has long received backing from the US. The Pentagon said on Tuesday that "the SDF, partnered with enabling support from U.S. and coalition forces, are the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future."
Control over Raqqa has changed hands twice during the course of Syria's six-year civil conflict. It was first overrun by moderate rebels in 2013, before IS captured it along with vast swathes of territory in both Iraq and Syria in 2014.
The supplies delivered to the YPG are expected to include small arms, machine guns, engineering equipment, armored vehicles and ammunition.