US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday that the US military would continue to provide weapons to the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) even after ousting the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) from Raqqa.
Speaking to journalists during his flight to Germany on Tuesday, Mattis said US reassurances to Turkey to take weapons back from the YPG after the war on ISIL depends on when and where the next mission is.
When asked if all the weapons would be returned, he said, “We’ll do what we can.”
Turkey said last week that Mattis had reassured Ankara with a letter that all arms given to the Syrian Kurds would be taken back and that the US would provide Turkey with a regular list of arms provided to YPG militants.
“When they don’t need certain things any more, we’ll replace those with something they do need,” said Mattis, who is expected to meet with his Turkish counterpart during a NATO meeting later this week in Brussels.
On May 23 the US Army dispatched new military equipment in nearly 100 trucks to the YPG after President Donald Trump authorized the arming of the YPG in Syria ahead of a planned assault to retake the city of Raqqa from ISIL, causing anger in Ankara.
While Ankara sees YPG Kurdish militia an extension of terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the US says YPG militia, under the Syrian Democratic Forces, are the most effective local force in trying to oust ISIL militants from their stronghold of Raqqa.
Turkey fears that weapons given to the Kurdish fighters will end up in the hands of PKK terrorists in Turkey.