The Trump administration has approved sending heavier weapons to Syrian Kurdish militants fighting against the Islamic State, a move that is set to anger Turkey at a time of intensified discussions about an anticipated offensive to retake Raqqa.
Pentagon said in a statement on Tuesday that President Donald J. Trump authorized the Department of Defense to equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as “necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIS in Raqqa.”
Dana W. White, chief Pentagon spokesperson, said the SDF is the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future. She added that the U.S. is keenly aware of the security concerns of Turkey. “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.”
Turkey has been reluctant to join the anticipated Raqqa offensive with SDF, the majority of whom are composed of Kurdish fighters. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is going to meet with President Trump next week and express his frustration with U.S. support for Syrian Kurds.
The news that President Trump is intending to approve sending heavier weapons to Syrian Kurds was first reported by Diken. The report said the decision was deliberately delayed after the Turkish referendum in April to avoid becoming a campaign material.
The U.S. views Syrian Kurdish militants as the most effective partners in the fight against ISIS and shows little sign that it might shift its longstanding cooperation with the Kurds. Turkey-backed rebels, another alternative to Kurdish fighters, are ineffective in anti-ISIS efforts and struggled for months to capture a small town in northern Syria, al-Bab.
President Trump’s promise of a quick victory against ISIS hit a snag due to Turkey’s unceasing pressure. Turkey’s intelligence chief Hakan Fidan and army chief Hulusi Akar met with White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster on Tuesday. Mr. Trump also briefly joined their meeting.
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