U.S. arming Kurdish Syria fighters unacceptable, shouts Turkey

The U.S. and other Western nations also view the PKK as a terrorist group. He earlier said that after Tabqa is secured, the Syrian Kurdish-led forces will continue operations to "isolate and seize Raqqa".

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis addresses a news conference during a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation defence ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 16, 2017.

While White did not mention the kinds of arms to be provided to the Kurds, other officials had indicated in recent days that 120mm mortars, machines guns, ammunition and light armored vehicles were possibilities.

Redur Xelil, a spokesperson for the group noted that arm supply decision will enable the Kurdish forces quickly stamp out the terrorist group.

Turkey has called on the U.S. to reverse its decision to arm Syrian Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG) fighters battling so-called Islamic State.

The YPG has joined with another militia group called the Syrian Arab Coalition under the banner of the US -backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to battle ISIS. They said the US would not provide artillery or surface-to-air missiles.

Turkey views the YPG as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought an insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984 and is considered a terrorist group by the United States, Turkey and Europe.

Washington is trying to provide Turkey assurances.

The Arab-Kurdish alliance accepted ISIL's surrender to protect civilians and the dam, it said, adding "the coalition tracked fleeing fighters and targeted those that could be safely hit". A senior American official said the US will step up joint intelligence-sharing with the Turks to help them better target terrorists. "We will work very closely with Turkey in support of their security on their southern border".

A US-led anti-Daesh coalition spokesman told reporters in Washington that the weapons would be "pointed at ISIS [Daesh]".

Also, the State Department said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke by phone with his Turkish counterpart on Monday night. Erdogan has demanded that Washington undo the arms decision, and said he would take up the issue with Trump. USA officials have indicated that 120 mm mortars, machine guns, ammunition and light armored vehicles were possibilities. The intent is to restrict the distribution and use of the weaponry and then require the Kurds to return it to USA control, the officials said.

On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump approved a plan to arm YPG, fighting Daesh within the US-backed SDF, saying that the measure was necessary to ensure a victory over terrorists in Raqqa, despite objections from Turkey.

Even with the extra US 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.

  • Leroy Wright