Syrian Kurdish female fighters (L), an ISIS militant (R). Photo: Jinda Ibrahim/ARA News
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WASHINGTON – The US-led coalition has started directly arming the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), officials said on Saturday. The weapons shipments are part of the preparations to liberate the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa in northeastern Syria.
Colonel John Dorrian, a coalition spokesman, said that the coalition has already supplied arms to the SDF so that they can continue the fight against ISIS.
Recent reports suggested that the White House was considering arming the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) directly. The YPG is the leading member in the SDF alliance, and the offer of arms and recognition may push the Kurds to fight ISIS in Raqqa.
“Yeah, we have a program called the Syria Train & Equip fund in which we train and equip our partners in Syria. So we’ve been doing that for quite some time and will continue to do that,” Dorrian said.
“The SDF, which is our partner organization of vetted forces in Syria, have been stalwart partners and have done a very good job in taking the fight to Daesh. We continue to work with them and we intend to keep doing so,” Dorrian said.
Speaking to ARA News, Michael Stephens, Research Fellow for Middle East Studies and Head of RUSI Qatar, said that the White House will most likely push through directly arming the SDF.
“They will, but the question is to what end. It’s logical to expect the US directly arming the Kurds to encourage them to move towards Raqqah and redirecting them away from areas north of Aleppo, which could bring them in conflict with Turkey,” he said.
The move will likely be opposed by Turkey.
Andrew Tabler, a Martin J. Gross fellow at the Washington Institute, told ARA News that the Turkey’s intervention would not change the US policy towards the SDF.
“The Kurds carved out their areas quite skillfully, and therefore will remain part of the US policy, I heard nothing to the contrary,” he said.
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg
Source: ARA News