US-backed Syrian Kurdish-Arab alliance says gets more US support since Trump took office
HASAKEH, SyriaA U.S.-backed coalition of Syrian Kurdish Arab fighters fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria has received U.S. armored vehicles for the first time and a promise of new American support, a coalition spokesman said on Jan. 31.
“American armored vehicles have arrived for the Syrian Democratic Forces [SDF] for the first time. This happened after the new U.S. administration came to power,” spokesman Talal Sello told AFP.
Sello said the decision to supply the vehicles was taken by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, rather than in a simple continuation of U.S. support under former President Barack Obama.
“Before we used to receive light weapons, ammunition ... with these armored vehicles we’ve entered a new phase in the [U.S.] support. It’s a sign,” he added.
“We have had meetings with representatives of the new administration and they promised us extra support,” Sello said.
The SDF, which is comprised of Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters along with some Arab members, has long been a key partner of the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIL in Syria, and Washington has previously supplied the coalition with light weaponry and has sent U.S. and other Western special forces as “advisers.”
The U.S.-led coalition has also backed the force with heavy air strikes targeting ISIL fighters.
U.S.’s support to the SDF has caused tension between Washington and its NATO ally Turkey, which considers the main component of the SDF, the YPG, to be a terrorist organization due to its links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Speaking to daily Hürriyet on Jan. 31, Turkish military sources poured cold water on Sello’s claims.
“It is not news that the U.S. administration gives ammunition to the YPG. But according to our intelligence there has been no new delivery. They are trying to portray it as though the weapons [they already have] are new,” said the sources on condition of anonymity.
“They are conducting a perception operation to the world as if saying ‘the Trump administration is with us,’” the source added.
The SDF has been battling since Nov. 5, 2016 to oust the jihadists from the city of Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital in Syria.
Sello said the Trump administration had pledged extra support “particularly in the fight for Raqqa,” but the Turkish military source said they were not “expecting that anything will happen in Raqqa soon.”