Alwaght- US Defense Secretary James Mattis announced on Friday Washington will stop providing weapons to the Syrian Kurdish militias.
“The YPG is armed and as the coalition stops operations then obviously you don’t need that, you need security, you need police forces, that is local forces, that is people who make certain that ISIS doesn’t come back,” Mattis told journalists on a military plane en route to Cairo as he was on his way to start a five-day trip to the Middle East.
The YPG, or the People’s Protection Units, are Kurdish militias playing a leading role in the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a mainly Kurdish coalition supported by the US in Syria.
This follows a vow US President Donald Trump made to his Turkish counterpart to scale down support to the groups Ankara sees as terrorists.
Asked if the US indeed intends to halt is program to arm the Kurdish forces in Syria, Mattis said, “Yes,” and added that Pentagon is “going to go exactly along the lines of what the President announced.” Last Sunday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that US President Donald Trump promised he would “not provide weapons to the YPG” in a phone call with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Mattis also said that the Pentagon was "changing the composition of our forces" in Syria as its operations there enter their final stages. “The troops are changing their stance... that includes with our allies who are now changing their stance as they come to the limits of where they are going,” he said, as cited by Reuters.
The US recently said that about 400 Marines and their artillery would be leaving Syria after the end of the operation aimed at retaking Raqqa from ISIS. The actual number of American troops in Syria, however, could still be significant as recent reports suggest that the US is concealing their true numbers in the Middle Eastern country.
The US program envisaging arms supplies to the Syrian Kurds, as well as disagreements over their future status, have strained relations between Washington and Ankara. Turkey views the US-backed Kurdish YPG militia as a terrorist organization linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that have waged a three decade-long insurgency in Turkey.
Washington has repeatedly stressed that, while it is aware of Turkey’s security concerns, its policy of arming the Kurds is “necessary to ensure a clear victory” in Raqqa. Ankara, however, claimed that the YPG is not fighting Islamic State but seeks to engage in cooperation with the extremists.
Less than a week before his phone call with Trump, Erdogan accused the US of “breaking its promises” in Syria over its continued support for the YPG, and even claimed that the US was providing "a lot of dollars" to the ISIS terrorists.