The United States is considering “adjustments” to the military support it provides to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) who have been fighting the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Syria and played a vital role in liberating the group’s primary stronghold in the war-ravaged country, according to the Pentagon.
Turkey has long urged the United States to stop lending military support to the YPG, the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) that controls vast swathes of northern Syria.
While the United States considers the YPG to be vital partners against ISIS, its NATO ally Turkey argues that the group is affiliated with Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).
Both the United States and Turkey have officially designated the PKK as a terrorist organization, but Washington has continued to provide military support to the Syrian Kurds despite Ankara’s concern.
Following a conversation between Presidents Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdogan on November 24, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters that the U.S. commander-in-chief had “instructed” the American military to stop providing weapons to the YPG.
On Monday, Eric Pahon, a spokesman for the Pentagon, reportedly said, “We are reviewing pending adjustments to the military support provided to our Kurdish partners in as much as the military requirements of our defeat-ISIS and stabilization efforts will allow to prevent ISIS from returning.”
The previous day, an unnamed spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS also said it was reviewing “adjustments” to the support it provides to the YPG-dominated Kurdish-Arab alliance known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), notes Reuters.
America’s continued support for its anti-ISIS ally the YPG has been the root of the tensions plaguing the relationship between the United States and Turkey in recent years.
Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bekir recently said that the conversations between Trump and Erdogan could mark a turning point in the tension between the two NATO allies “if” the U.S. honors its alleged pledge to stop arming the Syrian Kurds, reports Hurriyet Daily News.
“The ‘We will not give weapons’ remark from a U.S. president for the first time is important, but it will lose value if it is not implemented. It would be deceiving the world,” declared Bozdag.
The White House readout of the November 24 call between Trump and Erdogan failed to mention YPG fighters by name.
Nevertheless, the readout acknowledged, “President Trump also informed President Erdogan of pending adjustments to the military support provided to our partners on the ground in Syria, now that the battle of Raqqa is complete and we are progressing into a stabilization phase to ensure that ISIS cannot return.”
The YPG-led SDF played a critical role in pushing ISIS out of Raqqa, the terrorist group’s former de-facto capital.
Soon after the anti-ISIS war began in 2014, the United States deemed the YPG troops to be vital partners against the terrorist group.
A YPG leader told Reuters in July that Turkey’s military presence in Kurdish-held areas in northern Syria constituted a “declaration of war.”
Meanwhile, Erdogan alleged the deployment of Turkish troops into Syria were only intended to “end the rule of the tyrant” Bashar al-Assad.