Responding to Turkey: US says they only arm SDF Arabs, not Kurds


Arab fighters participating in the SDF-led battle for Raqqa. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

Turkish officials have claimed that the US is arming the Syrian Kurds. On Thursday, the Pentagon rejected those accusations, insisting that it only arms Arab elements within the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Earlier this week, USA Today reported that the US Air Force was expediting its airdrops, to help the SDF as they advanced towards Raqqa. However, the Pentagon has clarified that they were only arming the Syrian Arab Coalition –an SDF faction.

“Our local partners in Syria continue to converge down on Raqqa and I’m also confident that they will soon have ISIS’ so-called capital isolated,” outgoing US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said, in reference to the Islamic State.

Pentagon spokesperson Peter Cook explicitly denied that the US was providing materiel to the Kurds in Syria. “We have been supplying the SDF, specifically the Syrian Arab Coalition, for some time.”

“We continue to provide that support for the Syrian Arab Coalition,” the American officer stressed. “There’s been no change.”

While the Pentagon has emphatically denied that it is equipping the People’s Protection Units (YPG), it has also urged the incoming Trump administration to change this policy. The Pentagon believes that the US needs to directly arm the Syrian Kurds since they are America’s most effective partner in Syria.

It is unclear whether Trump will listen to the Pentagon, or to Turkey, which is lobbying against any form of support for the Kurds in Syria. In Turkey, pro-government columnist Ilnur Cevik argued that the US had abandoned the Turks in al-Bab, in order to placate the Syrian Kurds.

“On the eve of Trump taking office, the Americans made a token gesture and announced they had attacked Daesh in al-Bab with their air force,” he wrote, employing another acronym for ISIS. “Yet this was a ‘token gesture’ as only four American drones were involved in the attack.”

“As this was happening, the US launched 22 fighter attacks against Daesh in Raqqa to help out the Syrian Kurds. Some are still on a completely wrong course,” Cevik concluded.

Turkey has been awash in anti-American rhetoric, which the US State Department has characterized as “ridiculous,” “beyond the pale” and deeply harmful to the countries’ bilateral relationship.

Pentagon spokesman Cook reiterated that Washington was working closely with Ankara. The US-led coalition reported on Wednesday that it had, in fact, launched three airstrikes on ISIS positions near al-Bab, destroying two vehicles and a supply cache.

“Our Turkish ally and the forces that they are working with […] continue to wage an operation there.” Pentagon spokesperson Cook said. “There continues to be close coordination with the coalition.”

The US official explained that while he couldn’t “get into every specific aspect of that coordination,” it “is part of the larger effort to deal ISIS a lasting defeat.”

“We want that to happen in al-Bab. We want that to happen in Raqqa. We want that to happen in Mosul. We want that to happen in Libya,” Cook declared. “This has to be an effort that is applied on multiple fronts. We cannot allow ISIS to have a safe haven anywhere.”

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News 

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