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Syria war: US to arm Kurds fighting Islamic State

US President Donald Trump has approved arms supplies to Kurdish YPG fighters to support an operation to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from Islamic State, despite fierce opposition from NATO ally Turkey.

Ankara views the Kurdish YPG militia, fighting within a larger US-backed coalition, as the Syrian arm of the Kurdish PKK militant group, which has waged an insurgency in south-eastern Turkey since 1984.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organisation by the United States, Australia and the European Union.

The Pentagon stressed it saw arming Kurdish forces "as necessary to ensure a clear victory" in Raqqa, Islamic State's de facto capital in Syria and a hub for planning the group's attacks against the West.

"We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey," Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement on Tuesday.

"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."

There was no immediate reaction from Turkey, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expected to meet Trump in Washington next week.

The US has long directly supplied arms to Arab components of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, which include YPG fighters.


YPGsoldiers near their strongholds in the border town of Kobane, Syria.

Ms White said Washington would still prioritise supplying those Arab fighters within the SDF.

The decision to arm the Syrian Kurds will likely cast a shadow over Erdogan's US visit, policy experts said.

Membersof the YPG militia beside a flag depicting jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in Aleppo province, Syria. Behind ...

"There have been bad episodes in the relationship between the United States and Turkey, but this one is serious because it gets to the heart of Turkish security priorities," said Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey project at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

"You've now got a question mark over the US-Turkish security relationship that is pretty serious."

Womenfighters from the Kurdish YPG militia.

Ankara has long argued Washington should switch support for the planned assault on Raqqa from the Kurdish YPG militia to Syrian rebels Turkey has trained and led against IS for the past year.

Ankara says that the YPG's advances will fuel anti-Kurdish sentiment in predominantly Arab parts of Syria such as Raqqa and threaten Syria's territorial integrity.

Source: smh

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