is a classic example of flip-flop policy. In November, the
US promised Turkey
to stop arming Kurdish militias in Syria after the Islamic State was
routed. Brett McGurk, the US Special Presidential Envoy to the Global
Coalition to Defeat Islamic State, explained that after the urban
fighting in Raqqa was over “adjustments in the level of military
support” would be made. “We had to give some equipment – and
it’s limited, extremely limited – all of which was very
transparent to our NATO ally, Turkey,” he said during
a special briefing on December 21. In June, the US told Turkey
it would take back weapons supplied to the Kurdish the People’s
Protection Units (YPG) militia in northern Syria after the defeat of
sophisticated weapons will continue to be sent to Syria in 2018,
including thousands of anti-tank rocket launchers, heat seeking
missiles and rocket launchers. The list of weaponry and equipment was
prepared by US Department of Defense as part of the 2018 defense
budget and signed by Trump of Dec. 12. It includes more than 300
non-tactical vehicles, 60 nonstandard vehicles, and 30 earth-moving
vehicles to assist with the construction of outposts or operations
staging areas. The US defense spending bill for 2018 (“Justification
for FY 2018 Overseas Contingency Operations / Counter-Islamic State
of Iraq and Syria Train and Equip Fund”) includes providing weapons
worth $393 million to US partners in Syria. Overall, $500 million,
roughly $70 million more than last year, are to be spent on Syria
Train and Equip requirements. The partners are the Kurds-dominated
Syria Democratic Forces (SDF). The YPG – the group that is a major
concern of Turkey – is the backbone of this force.
budget does not refer to Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) but instead
says “Vetted Syrian Opposition”. According to the budget list,
there are 25,000 opposition forces supported as a part of the train
and equip program in Syria.
That number is planned to be increased to
30,000 in 2018. The arming of Kurdish militants with anti-tank
a sensitive topic because of Turkey’s reliance on its armored
Leopard tanks in northern Syria.
Sillo, a former high-ranking commander and spokesperson of the
US-backed SDF, who defected from the group last month to go to
Turkey, divulged details
of the US arming the Kurdish group.
list does not detail which vetted Syrian groups will receive certain
pieces of equipment. In northern Syria, there is the SDF, including
the YPG, and the Syria Arab Coalition — a group of Arab fighters
incorporated into the SDF. The Maghawir al-Thawra and Shohada
al-Quartayn groups are operating in the southeastern part of Syria.
They are being trained by US and British instructors at the al-Tanf
border crossing between Syria and Iraq.
the SDF and the groups trained at al-Tanf, the US is in the process
of creating the
New Syria Army to fight the Syrian government forces. The training is
taking place at the Syrian Hasakah refugee camp located 70 kilometers
from the border of Turkey and 50 kilometers from the
border of Iraq.
40 Syria opposition groups on Dec. 25 rejected to attend the
conference on Syria scheduled
to take place in January. They said Moscow, which organizes the
conference, was seeking to bypass the UN-based Geneva peace process,
despite the fact that UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said that
Russia’s plan to convene the congress should be assessed by its
ability to contribute to and support the UN-led Geneva talks on
ending the war in Syria. If fighting starts, these groups are likely
to join the formations created by the US.
the United States not only maintains its illegal military
presence in Syria and creates new forces to fight against the Syrian
government, it appears to be preparing for a new war to follow the
Islamic State’s defeat. The continuation of arming and training
Kurdish militias will hardly improve Washington’s relations with
Ankara, while saying one thing and doing another undermines the
credibility of the United States as a partner.