World

Trump's plan to arm Kurds against ISIS may irk Turkey

10 May 2017 | By Abheet Sethi

US President Donald Trump has approved a plan to supply arms to Kurdish YPG forces to support an operation to retake the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa in Syria, the Pentagon said.

The move is expected to anger Turkey, a major US ally, which views Kurdish forces terrorists.

The development comes ahead of Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan meeting with Trump in Washington next week.

In context: Trump approves plan to arm Kurds against ISIS

10 May 2017Trump's plan to arm Kurds against ISIS may irk Turkey

ExplainedWhy Turkey opposes US's support for Kurds

Turkey considers the Kurdish YPG militia the Syrian extension of its home-grown Kurdish PKK militant group, which has fought a bitter separatist insurgency since 1984.

The US's support for the YPG has strained relations and the latest development "gets to the heart of Turkish security priorities," said Turkey expert Bulent Aliriza.

"You've now got a question mark over the US-Turkish security relationship," he added.

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Pentagon statementPentagon - Arming Kurdish militia "necessary" for victory against ISIS

The US has for long supplied arms to the predominantly Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), of which the ethnic Kurdhish YPG militia are a part.

The Pentagon said arming Kurdish is "necessary to ensure a clear victory" in Raqqa, ISIS's de facto capital in Syria.

An official said the Kurdish officials will receive small arms, ammunition, machine guns, armored vehicles and engineering equipment.

ReassuringUS tries reassuring Turkey of its commitment to security

The Pentagon said it's "keenly aware" of Turkey's security concerns.

"We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the US is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally," the Pentagon said.

"Our intent is to work with the Turks, alongside one another, to take Raqqa down," said US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

11 May 2017Turkey calls US decision to arm Syrian Kurds 'unacceptable'

Turkey has called US President Donald Trump's decision to arm Kurdish YPG militia in Syria against ISIS "unacceptable."

Turkey has called on the US, a major ally, to reverse its decision.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the fight against ISIS jihadists shouldn't involve "another terrorist group."

He said he'd express Turkey's worries when he meets Trump in the White House on Tuesday.

Why the alliance with NATO-member Turkey matters

The US-Turkey alliance has been decisive in countering ISIS in Syria. The Incirlik air base in Turkey has provided an invaluable site for the US-led coalition launching airstrikes in ISIS-held territories. However, the decision to arm Kurdish forces could strain the US-Turkey alliance.