In comments that are doubtless going to further anger Turkey about US policy in Syria, Defense Secretary James Mattis insisted the current program of arming the Kurdish YPG faction would not end after the capture of the ISIS capital city of Raqqa, and that they might just change the sort of weapons they’re giving the Kurds after that.
This comes less than a week after the US had assured the Turkish government that not only would the US stop arming the Kurds after the defeat of ISIS, but that they’d then take all the weapons back from the Kurds at that point. Mattis appeared to downplay the chances of this, however, saying only that “we’ll do what we can” to recover the arms.
Turkish forces have been skirmishing with, or on the brink of war with the YPG for years, and see the US program as “arming terrorists.” Though some Turkish officials found solace in the promise to take the arms back, others considered it an empty promise.
Mattis has promised to provide regular lists of what arms the US has given the YPG throughout the program, but it’s not clear they are keeping a careful inventory system of what happens to those arms after they’re delivered, let alone that they’ll be able to get them back afterwards.
Mattis did, however, suggest that as the YPG’s needs change when they’re attacking less urban environments, the US may take some arms back and trade them for different sorts of arms that would be more useful elsewhere in the country. Either way, the US seems committed to arming the Kurds for quite some time, and the promise to disarm them afterwards seems to be little more than a notion to placate Turkey.
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