Pentagon 'taking a look' at halting weapons for Syrian Kurds as Turkey presses ban

Pentagon 'taking a look' at halting weapons for Syrian Kurds as Turkey presses ban

The Defense Department on Monday said it is reviewing the process it uses to provide equipment and weapons to Kurdish fighters with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) but has not halted sending weapons.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Robert Manning told reporters that the department is “reviewing pending adjustments to the military support provided to our Kurdish partners in as much as the military requirements of our defeat-[Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] and stabilization efforts will allow us to prevent ISIS from returning.”

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Turkey's foreign minister said Friday that President Trump committed to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the United States would no longer supply arms to Syrian Kurdish fighters.

Turkey considers the SDF Kurds, known as the YPG, to be an extension of outlawed Kurdish insurgents within its country, the Kurdistan Workers Party.

“Mr. Trump clearly stated that he had given clear instructions and that the YPG won’t be given arms, and that this nonsense should have ended a long time ago,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a news conference last week.

The White House later released a statement that confirmed the topic was touched on but would not commit to a full-on ban.

“Consistent with our previous policy, President Trump also informed President Erdogan of pending adjustments to the military support provided to our partners on the ground in Syria, now that the battle of Raqqa is complete and we are progressing into a stabilization phase to ensure that ISIS cannot return,” the White House statement read.

The U.S. military in May began providing the Kurds with equipment and weapons to aid in the SDF fight against ISIS after Trump signed off on the plan to help retake the Syrian city of Raqqa.

When asked about a potential weapons halt, Manning said the Pentagon had not yet implemented such a measure and is only “taking a look at it right now.”

“We’ve been clear with Turkey that weapons provided to the Syrian Democratic Forces — which include Kurdish elements of the SDF — would be limited, mission specific, and provided incrementally to achieve our objectives, and those objectives are targeting ISIS,” Manning said.