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Trump Approves Arming Kurds in Syria Over Turkey's Objections

10 May 2017, 02:54 | Ignacio Ramos

Trump Approves Arming Kurds in Syria Over Turkey's Objections

FBI Director James Comey arrives for a meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Organized Crime Council and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Executive Committee in Washington D.C

US-backed fighters have captured 80 percent of Syria's Tabqa from the Islamic State group, a monitor said on May 1, a week after they first entered the town.

His approval gives the Pentagon the go-ahead to "equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces as necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIS" in Raqqa, said White, who was traveling with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Europe.

"The resulting clashes required U.S. Army Rangers to intervene - including by openly flying American flags from their armored vehicles - to separate the forces". The supplies and weapons will be parceled out to be just enough to accomplish specific objectives related to Raqqa, the official added.

"This will not be micromanaged like it was during the Obama administration", said one official, referring to the prior administration's close review of arms to other Syrian rebels.

Ankara views the Kurdish YPG militia, fighting within a larger US-backed coalition, as the Syrian extension of the Kurdish PKK militant group, which has fought an insurgency in southeastern Turkey since 1984.

Later, Mr. Cevik attempted to walk back his comments on social media regarding USA forces working with Kurdish militias.

Though Mattis met with Turkish officials, he did not tell them of the decision to arm the Kurds, a U.S. official said.

According to a senior United States administration official, Interpol has identified 14,000 foreign fighters it knows have travelled to Syria and are still alive.

There was no immediate reaction from Turkey, whose president, Tayyip Erdogan, is expected to meet Trump in Washington next week.

The U.S. military has debated for months how best to proceed as forces prepare to retake Raqqa, ISIS' de facto capital in Syria. Syrian Kurds make up just over half of the SDF, according to the USA military.

In her statement, White, of the Pentagon, said the USA prioritises its support for the Arab elements of the SDF.

Acknowledging the long-held concerns of Turkey, the Pentagon statement said, "we are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey". She said Mattis spoke with his Turkish counterpart, Fikri Isik, by telephone to reiterate a US commitment to "protecting our North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally".

"The SDF, partnered with enabling support from USA and coalition forces, are the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future", said Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Dana W. White.

The decision to arm the Syrian Kurds will likely cast a shadow over Erdogan's visit to Washington, policy experts said.

The simmering tensions between the Kurds and Turkey reached a boiling point last month when Turkish forces bombed and killed some US -aligned Kurds.

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