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US Cutting Off Arms Supply to Kurds Fighting in Syria
US Cutting Off Arms Supply to Kurds Fighting in Syria

US Cutting Off Arms Supply to Kurds Fighting in Syria

US Cutting Off Arms Supply to Kurds Fighting in Syria

The United States will cut off its supply of arms to Kurdish fighters in Syria, a move by President Donald Trump that is sure to please Turkey but further alienate Syrian Kurds who fought against the self-styled Islamic State group.
In a phone call Friday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Trump said he’d “given clear instructions” that the Kurds will receive no more weapons —”and that this nonsense should have ended a long time ago,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, ABC News reported.
The White House confirmed the move in a cryptic statement about the phone call that said Trump had informed the Turkish leader of “pending adjustments to the military support provided to our partners on the ground in Syria.”
The White House called the move “consistent with our previous policy” and noted the recent fall of Raqqa, once the IS group’s self-declared capital but recently liberated by a largely Kurdish force. The Trump administration announced in May it would start arming the Kurds in anticipation of the fight to retake Raqqa.
The move could help ease strained tensions between the US and Turkey, two NATO allies that have been sharply at odds about how best to wage the fight against IS. Turkey considers the Kurdish Syrian fighters, known by the initials YPG, to be terrorists because of their affiliation to outlawed Kurdish rebels that have waged a three decade-long insurgency in Turkey. Yet the US chose to partner with the YPG in Syria anyway, arguing that the battle-hardened Kurds were the most effective fighting force available.
Cavusoglu, who said he was in the room with Erdogan during Trump’s call, quoted the US president as saying he had given instructions to US generals and to national security adviser H.R. McMaster that “no weapons would be issued.”
“Of course, we were very happy with this,” Cavusoglu said.
Trump’s decision appeared to catch both the Pentagon and the U.S. State Department off guard. Officials at both agencies, who would normally be informed of changes in U.S. policy toward arming the Syrian Kurds, said they were unaware of any changes. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported that the Pentagon is likely to announce in the coming days that there are about 2,000 US troops in Syria, two US officials said on Friday, as the military acknowledges that an accounting system for troops has under-reported the size of forces on the ground.
The US military had earlier publicly said it had around 500 troops in Syria, mostly supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces group of Kurdish and Arab militias fighting IS in the north of the country.
Two US officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Pentagon could, as early as Monday, publicly announce that there are slightly more than 2,000 US troops in Syria. They said there was always a possibility that last minute changes in schedules could delay an announcement.

 

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