USA plans to directly arm Syria Kurds against Islamic State

Syrian Kurdish fighters on Wednesday welcomed the Trump administration's announcement that it will provide them with heavier arms in order to battle the Islamic State group, but North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member Turkey, which views the main Syrian Kurdish militia as terrorists, says every weapon the Americans give them is a "threat".

Washington, however, sees the arming of Kurdish forces "as necessary to ensure a clear victory" in Raqqa, the Islamic State's de facto capital in Syria.

Turkey considers the People's Protection Units or YPG - a Kurdish militia that is part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighting Isis in Syria and Iraq - as militants, while the USA sees them as strong allies. Turkish officials have not yet responded publicly.

The SDF's rapid advance against Islamic State last year prompted Turkey to send ground forces across the border for the first time in the more than six-year-old civil war to help allied Syrian forces battle Islamic State and halt the Kurds' progress. "We hope the USA administration will put a stop to this wrong and turn back from it", he said in an interview with Turkish broadcaster A Haber.

Dana W. White, the chief Pentagon spokeswoman, confirmed the decision in a statement Tuesday.

Cavusoglu said the United States was aware of its stance and that the issues would be discussed by President Tayyip Erdogan when he meets Trump in Washington next week.

And in Denmark earlier Tuesday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he had useful discussions with Turkey and described the two countries as working out differences over a USA alliance with Syrian Kurds in fighting Islamic State militants.

Tim Kaine, D-Va., the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Middle East panel, told Al-Monitor.

Also, the State Department said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke by phone with his Turkish counterpart on Monday night.

The Pentagon said on Tuesday it was aware of concerns in Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally that has given vital support to a USA -led campaign against IS in Syria and Iraq.

A Kurdish fighter from the People's Protection Units (YPG) gestures at a convoy of USA military vehicles going past in the town of Darbasiya, Syria, next to the Turkish border, April 28, 2017.

SDF fighters hold a position against Daesh outside of Raqqa.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has spoken out against a USA decision to arm Syrian Kurdish fighters, saying it can not use one terrorist group to try and defeat another.

"After U.S. -backed Kurdish forces captured the Syrian town of Manbij from ISIS last August and then began moving farther north, Turkey launched what it called Operation Euphrates Shield, which pitted Turkish-backed forces against these Kurdish-led forces, as well as against ISIS".

Mattis said he had open and us.

The YPG praised the "historic" USA decision and said it expected to play a stronger and more influential role in what it called the fight against terrorism. The Turks have insisted that the Syrian Kurds be excluded from that operation, but US officials insisted there was no real alternative.

Turkey views the Syrian Kurds as terrorists or supporters of terrorists due to their relationship with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

"We can not accept the presence of terrorist organisations that would threaten the future of the Turkish state", Canikli said in an interview with Turkish broadcaster Haber.

US troops were seen patrolling the Turkey-Syria border in armored vehicles last week, apparently in an attempt to deter Turkey and Syrian Kurdish forces from attacking one another.

A high-level Turkish delegation including Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin and Turkey's spy chief Hakan Fidan has been in the United States laying the groundwork for the meeting.

  • Leroy Wright