The Trump Deception
The president continues the traditional US military agenda followed by the military industrial complex
In the delicate balance game that governs the Syrian war, the United States has taken a step that it hopes will be crucial in the campaign against the Islamic State but that will also anger Turkey, a key partner in the fight against the terrorist group.
President Donald Trump authorized on Monday the handing over of weapons to Kurdish militias in Syria to use in Raqa, ISIS’s home in that country and from which it plans its attacks abroad, the Pentagon announced Tuesday.
Trump agreed to “equip as necessary” the Kurdish fighters, grouped under the YPG acronym for the Syrian Democratic Forces – an amalgam of militias of various denominations and ethnic groups that are the US’s largest ally in Syria – “to secure a victory” in Raqa.
“Along with the support of US forces and the coalition, they are the only force on the ground that Raqa can successfully take in the near future,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement.
The decision is a another example of apparent caution in the anti-terrorist strategy that Trump has adopted over his predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama, who was accused of passivity in the six-year bloody Syrian civil war.
The US has been attacking ISIS positions in the Arab country since 2014. Trump approved in April the first bombing of positions of the Syrian Army, which also fights the jihadists, in retaliation for a chemical attack on civilians.
Washington has provided arms in recent years to Arab militias, but so far had resisted doing so with Kurdish fighters so as not to upset Ankara.
The US military chief believes the Kurds need heavy weapons, rocket launchers and armored vehicles to defeat the ISIS fighters entrenched in Raqa.
Turkey considers the Kurdish militias an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought an insurgency in southeastern Turkey since the 1980s and is declared a terrorist group by Turkey and the US.
The government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had been pressing the White House for weeks not to make a decision in that regard. Trump has praised Erdogan’s leadership, which contrasts with criticism from the Obama Administration and the international community steeped in authoritarianism in Turkey.
Both leaders will meet next week at the White House in a meeting that will be marked by the role of Kurdish militias in Syria and by Ankara’s request for extradition of a cleric who lives in exile in the US and to whom the Turkish government attributes the failed coup against Erdogan last July.
“We are deeply aware of Turkey’s security concerns. We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the US is committed to preventing further security risks and protecting our ally in NATO,” White said, without going into details.
Turkey allows the international coalition aircraft attacking ISIS to use an air base along the border with Syria.
In his more than three months as a tenant of the Oval Office, Trump has yet to reveal his roadmap against ISIS. But it has adopted some moves to attack the jihadist group more intensely and to reinforce the military presence of the first power.
Washington has about 900 uniformed men in Syria, who have advisory functions and are not in the front line. The fight on the ground rests on local forces that the US supports from the air.
In the two and a half years of the US campaign, Kurdish militias have secured an area under their control in northern Syria.