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Pentagon Suggests US Will Keep Arming Kurds in Syria After Raqqa

© REUTERS / Yuri GripasU.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis gestures during a press briefing on the campaign to defeat ISIS at the Pentagon in Washington, U.S., May 19, 2017
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis gestures during a press briefing on the campaign to defeat ISIS at the Pentagon in Washington, U.S., May 19, 2017 - Sputnik International
Noting that Kurdish YPG members fighting alongside US forces against Daesh were well-armed prior to joining the coalition, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis responded to Ankara’s calls to take away their guns with an ambiguous “we’ll see.”

In suggesting that the US may continue to require the assistance of the Kurdish YPG in eliminating the threat posed by Daesh, Mattis inferred that the Pentagon would not take away arms provided for the recapture of Raqqa, even going so far as to say that new weapons could be provided to the Kurdish fighters — dashing the hopes of Turkish President Reccip Tayyip Erdogan.

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Turkey, a NATO ally, claimed that US secretary of defense promised that Washington would take back armaments provided to the KPG once Daesh was defeated.

Erdogan's administration has accused the YPG fighters — a favored US combat ally in the region — of supplying assistance and weaponry to the Kurdish PKK, an outlawed political faction in the southwest of Turkey that has long sought independence from Ankara, according to Reuters.

Mattis, in responding to questions as to whether the US would accede to Ankara's demands, said, "We'll do what we can."

As to whether the Kurdish YPG faction would see their armaments diminished after the fight for Raqqa ended, Mattis again avoided a direct answer, stating instead: "Well, we'll see."

"It depends what the next mission is," he added. "I mean, it's not like the fight's over when Raqqa's over," according to Reuters.

Mattis, in acknowledging the YPG to be essential to the US-led coalition's victory over Daesh in the face of Ankara's demands, will meet with Fikri Isik, the Turkish Minister of Defense, in Brussels on Thursday.

Mattis also implied that the US would continue to equip the YPG fighters in the near term.

"We'll be recovering [weapons] during the battle, repairing them. When they don't need certain things anymore, we'll replace those with something they do need," he said.

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