The US is providing Kurdish fighters with small arms, ammunition and vehicles
US officials say they have been in contact with Turkey in an effort to allay their concerns
The US military began arming Syrian Kurds fighting ISIS Tuesday, in a move likely to anger America’s long-time ally Turkey.
The equipment will be provided to Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces and will include small arms, ammunition and vehicles, according to Maj. Adrian Rankine Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman.
On May 8 the Pentagon announced that President Donald Trump had authorized the “limited” arming of Syrian Kurds to help in the fight against the terror group, an announcement that drew immediate protests from senior Turkish officials.
US military officials have said the supplies and weapons will be parceled out to be just enough to accomplish specific objectives related to efforts to retake Raqqa from ISIS.
It is a move that has long been under consideration at the Pentagon but was delayed due to strong opposition from America’s NATO ally, Turkey.
Turkey sees the Kurdish fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces – known as the YPG – as closely linked to the PKK, an internationally designated terror group that has carried out attacks against Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the YPG a “terrorist organization” while appearing alongside Trump during his White House visit earlier this month.
But the US views the two Kurdish groups as distinct organizations and considers the Syrian Kurds to be the most effective force fighting ISIS on the ground in Syria.
US defense officials say they have been in contact with their Turkish counterparts as part of an effort to allay concerns about arming Kurdish fighters.
Arms and equipment were already being provided to Arab fighters within the Syrian Democratic Forces, and speaking to reporters at the Pentagon earlier this month, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford made it clear that the weapons could be provided to the Kurds fairly quickly.
The coalition “had stockpiled equipment in the event that President Trump made the decision that he did,” Dunford said of the authorization, adding “it should happen here very soon.”
NBC News was first to report that the US has begun sending weapons to the Syrian Kurds.