Trump Approves Arming Kurds in Defiance of Turkey

Australia continues commitment to counter Daesh

The US was "keenly aware" of Turkey's concerns about such a move, she added.

The Kurdish elements of the SDF are from the Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) and they have been the main faction fighting ISIL, which stands for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and is also known as ISIS, on the ground in Syria.

Turkey views those Kurdish fighters in Syria as terrorists, or as allied with terrorists, due to their connection to the Kurdish PKK militant group, which wants to carve out its own independent state within Turkey.

Turkey has continued to lobby the Trump administration to change course in the days leading up to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's U.S. visit, dispatching top Turkish officials, including General Hulusi Akar, the military chief of staff, and Hakan Fidan, the intelligence chief, to Washington.

NBC reported Trump and members of his Cabinet spoke about it during a meeting late Monday at the White House.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, right, shakes hands with Danish Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen, during a press conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, Tuesday.

Troops from Kurdish militia units known as the YPG stand guard next to U.S. fighting vehicles near the Syrian-Turkish border.

It was not immediately clear whether the decision by Trump means the YPG will receive heavier weapons, including anti-tank missiles and armored vehicles.

But she called the Syrian Democratic Forces "the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future", an indirect pushback on Turkish proposals that the U.S. abandon its support of the YPG and instead rely on other Turkish-backed rebels for the crucial mission.




The U.S. support for the SDF has been a major strain on relations between Washington and Ankara.

The U.S. will continue to prioritize supporting Arab elements within the SDF, despite the decision to arm the Kurds, according to White. They said the United States would not provide artillery or surface-to-air missiles.

The United States has played down Turkish accusations of links between the YPG and PKK.

The US-backed campaign against the Islamic State is just one of several parallel conflicts unfolding in Syria after more than six years of civil war.

The US official said several administration brass, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, talked to Turkish interlocutors Tuesday to explain the US decision.

Ankara has insisted that the Syrian Kurds be excluded from that operation, but USA officials said there was no real alternative.

"We're going to sort it out", he replied. "We'll figure out how we're going to do it".

Turkey carried out a series of airstrikes against the YPG last month, a move that drew immediate complaints from United States officials. The Turkish military said it killed at least 90 fighters and wounded scores.

The instability has concerned Washington, which fears it will slow the effort to retake Raqqa.

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