The Donald Trump administration is doubling support for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), including their Kurdish allies.
Washington and Ankara have long been at loggerheads over their Syrian policy, with Washington prioritising the fight against IS. The aim of Washington’s increased support is to ensure SDF can hold on to territory in the Euphrates valley, gained from IS.
Ankara treats local YPG Kurdish fighters as a Syrian branch of PKK. Last week Turkey reiterated its demand for Washington to renounce the Kurdish YPG force; Ankara is proposing to fill the power vacuum with Turkish and US troops.
However, the Pentagon’s military aid focuses on assault rifles rather than heavier armament and vehicles. According to Al-Monitor, Syrian opposition forces – including the Kurdish fighters – expect to receive 25,000 AK-47s, that is, the Russian-made weapon of choice for irregular troops worldwide.
The weapons cache will be sourced from the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Bosnia but will not include anti-tank missiles. In fact, Washington is planning to withdraw heavy vehicles and artillery and is cutting down on the supply of grenade launchers.
During the recent meeting between the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pledged to coordinate more closely with the Turks in Syria.
The US Defense Department is planning a 65,000-strong force, made predominantly of Arab opposition fighters. However, there are also unconfirmed reports of a Kurdish YPG force of 30,000 veterans.