US to arm Kurd in Syria over objections from Turkey

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US to arm Kurd in Syria over objections from Turkey

I’m going to start with a TV clip that lays it out, but be advised that he source of this clip is “Russia Today” so it’s not exactly an objective source, but the clip of Press Secretary Spicer and others at least gives the context.


Here is CNN:

President Donald Trump has authorized the limited arming of Syrian Kurds to help in the fight against ISIS, the Pentagon announced Tuesday, in a move bound to antagonize Turkey.

"Yesterday, the President authorized the Department of Defense to equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces as necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIS in Raqqa, Syria," chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said in a statement referring to ISIS' self-declared capital.

The equipment provided is set to include small arms, machine guns, construction equipment and armored vehicles, a US official told CNN. The supplies and weapons will be parceled out to be just enough to accomplish specific objectives related to Raqqa, the official added.

In this case, the “Armored Vehicles” IS NOT TANKS.  There seems to be some confusion on that.  But the US is not sending the Kurds Abrams tanks or anything like that.  There seems to be enough confusion on that topic that even Military Times had to put out an article titled “No, the Pentagon is not supplying Syrian Kurds with Abrams tanks”.

The Trump administration's controversial decision this week to arm a Kurdish militia group in northern Syria set off a wave of propaganda suggesting it had taken possession of U.S. battle tanks and up-armored transports as part of the deal.

Um, no.

The People’s Protection Unit, better known as the YPG, is focused on liberating Raqqa, which has served as the Islamic State's capital city. YPG fighters are bracing for a difficult campaign, one they will carry out with the assistance of U.S. military advisers and aid — but not M1 Abrams and MRAPs, experts say.

Imagery of such vehicles is being recycled on social media by Kurdish activists hoping to boost morale among its units and antagonize both ISIS and Turkey, which considers the YPG a terrorist organization and resents Washington's support for it. That dynamic has been at the center of diplomatic tensions between the NATO allies.

Needless to say, this isn’t going over well with Turkey, tanks or no tanks.  According to the Guardian (which tends to be hyperbolic on such things):

Supplying the YPG in this way comes with responsibilities. Turkey fears the ascendancy of the YPG, which is the sister-group of the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), an organisation that has fought the Turkish state for 40 years. What worries Ankara is the emergence of an autonomous Kurdish region along its borders acting as a launchpad for attacks on Turkish soil, and this concern cannot be ignored. Isolating the second-largest military force within Nato – a traditionally indispensable component of the western-led liberal international order (an order that, granted, might be debatable today) and a regional power that constrains the hegemonic ambitions of Iran and Russia – could bring more costs than benefits for both the region and the international community.

Turkey can disrupt Syrian Kurdish ambitions and the YPG-US partnership. Its threshold for engaging the PKK and the YPG is much lower than its threshold for directly engaging the Assad regime, which it has sought to undermine by backing Syria’s rebels. The PKK is a group that Ankara understands, has studied and has a proven capacity for engaging militarily. It is no stranger to conducting full-scale military incursions in pursuit of the PKK and has historically done so in northern Iraq, where the PKK has established affiliates, and where the structural conditions are much more conducive to a military incursion.

The fight in Syria has created a morass of shifting alliances and such, and Turkey is concerned about the Kurds because certain separatist elements of the Kurds dream of a day when an autonomous “Kurdistan” comes into existence.  The Kurds live in northern Iraq, Syria, and the southern sections of Turkey, and have been linked to a series of attacks in that latter country.  But the thinking from the White House is that the Kurds are making the quickest inroads in fighting ISIS, especially in Mosul and the caliphate capitol at Raqqa, where they’ve been moving much faster than the Iraqi Government troops:

The problem could create long time problems with Turkey, as a NYT story made clear:

President Trump has approved a plan to arm Syrian Kurds so they can participate in the battle to retake Raqqa from the Islamic State, a strategy that has drawn deep opposition from Turkey, a NATO ally.

American military commanders have long argued that arming the Y.P.G., a Kurdish militia fighting alongside Syrian Arab forces against the Islamic State, is the fastest way to seize Raqqa, the capital of the militants’ self-proclaimed caliphate.

And Mr. Trump, who made fighting Islamist militants a priority during his campaign, again showed the high regard he has for Pentagon generals by endorsing their advice when faced with a policy dilemma.

Turkey has objected vociferously to such a move, raising fears of a backlash that could prompt the Turks to curtail their cooperation with Washington in the struggle against the Islamic State.

It makes it tough to successfully fight ISIS when we also have to be careful not to anger Turkey, which houses the largest air base (Incirlik) we have in the area, and is a major part of the fight there.



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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.