Alex Ward · Thursday, May 11, 2017, 11:44 am
And Turkey, a vital NATO ally, threatened to retaliate with military force.
In one fell swoop, President Trump just changed the future course of the war against ISIS — and alienated a vital American ally along the way.
That’s because of a new US move to arm the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian Kurdish militia that has emerged as one of Washington’s most important battlefield allies in the fight to push ISIS out of its de facto capital in the Syrian city of Raqqa. A full-scale, US-assisted offensive to reclaim the city is expected soon.
Turkey, a vital NATO power and anti-ISIS ally, is not taking this news lightly. It threatened to take military action against the YPG in closed-door meetings with US national security officials, per the Washington Post.
“Turkey’s message to the Trump administration was that Turkey reserves the right to take military action,” a senior Turkish official told the Washington Post.
The Pentagon’s top spokesperson, Dana White, had announced Tuesday that Trump authorized the Department of Defense “to equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces as necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIS in Raqqa.”
This was a move Gen. Joseph Votel — whose perch at the helm of the military’s Central Command means he oversees the US wars in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen — signaled all the way back in February. At the time, Votel said the US “would be transparent” with Turkey about its aid to the Kurds.
There has been no official word about what kinds of weaponry the YPG will get, but 120mm mortars, machine guns, ammunition, and light armored vehicles are possibilities, reports the Guardian. Artillery and surface-to-air missiles have been ruled out, at least for now.