US starts providing weapons to Syrian Kurds

Female fighters of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) stand at attention at a military camp in Ras a-Ain January 30, 2015. (Rodi Said/Reuters)

The United States said on Tuesday it started distributing arms to Syrian Kurdish militia battling to help retake the city of Raqqa from Islamic State, moving ahead with a war plan that has angered NATO ally Turkey.

Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway said the Kurdish fighters received small arms and vehicles from the US military. He believed the arms were distributed earlier on Tuesday.

Another US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the distribution of the arms had started in the past 24 hours, based on authority given by President Donald Trump earlier this month.

There was no immediate reaction from Turkey, which has warned the United States that its decision to arm Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State in Syria could end up hurting Washington.
Turkey views the YPG as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has fought an insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984.

The United States regards the YPG as a valuable partner in the fight against Islamic State militants in northern Syria.

Washington says that arming the Kurdish forces is necessary to recapturing Raqqa, Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria.

US officials have told Reuters that the United States was also looking to boost intelligence cooperation with Turkey to support its fight against the PKK.

(Reuters)