May 9 (Reuters) – Despite fierce opposition from NATO ally Turkey, U.S. President Donald Trump has approved supplying arms to Kurdish YPG fighters to support an operation to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from Islamic State, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.
Ankara views the Kurdish YPG militia fighting within a larger U.S.-backed coalition as the Syrian extension of the Kurdish PKK militant group, which has fought an insurgency in Turkey’s southeast since 1984.
There was no immediate reaction from Turkey, which allows the U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic State access to a strategic Turkish air base.
But the Pentagon immediately sought to stress it saw arming the Kurdish forces “as necessary to ensure a clear victory” in Raqqa, Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria and a hub for the group’s attack plots against the West.
“We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement as she traveled in Lithuania with Trump’s defense secretary, Jim Mattis.
“We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the U.S. is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally.”