Syrian Kurdish fighters are now armed with high-tech American weapons and equipment, but the Pentagon denies supplying it to them, Military Times reports.
According to the Times, some Kurds are now outfitted with M4 rifles, infrared targeting lasers, night-vision goggles, advanced optics, combat helmets, body armour and first-aid kits, digital camouflage uniforms, cold-weather clothing and chest rigs that hold ammunition.
But the Pentagon said that it’s prohibited from arming the Kurds, or YPG, with the weapons and equipment — the same gear used by American special forces.
The YPG have been closing in on the ISIS capital of Raqqa for months, and are trying to set up their own government in large parts of North Syria in which it already controls.
The problem is that Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist group, an extension of the Kurdish PKK that has been fighting an insurgency and trying to establish its own state in Turkey for decades.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently said Ankara was “seriously saddened” by footage showing American military vehicles operating close to the border with Syrian Kurdish fighters. Turkey has even carried out airstrikes on the YPG in recent weeks.
So this new development might prove yet another obstacle along the diplomatic tightrope that the Trump administration must walk.
The Pentagon admits supplying some of the Syrian Democratic Forces — a mixture of Arab and Kurdish fighters allied with the US in defeating ISIS — with AK-47s and other Russian weapons, but denied giving anything specifically to the YPG.
US officials gave only “ambiguous responses” to Military Times when asked how much equipment was given to the YPG’s commandos known as the Yekineyen Anti-terror, or YAT. But one defence official, who insisted on remaining anonymous because of the diplomatic ramifications, said the equipment was likely given to them through “other means by other sources.”
Defence officials also said that the YPG could have obtained the weapons and equipment through the black market.
While the Pentagon is not legally allowed to arm the YPG, the CIA and the US military’s Joint Special Operations Command can, Seth Binder, a researcher at the Center for International Policy in Washington, told the Times.
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