Pentagon chief, Turkish PM meet after decision to arm Kurds

Pentagon chief, Turkish PM meet after decision to arm Kurds

Pentagon chief, Turkish PM meet after decision to arm Kurds

USA -backed Syrian Democratic Forces have defeated Islamic State fighters in the city of Tabqa and have seized Tabqa Dam, a key objective for the militias before a planned attack on the terror group's de-facto capital, Raqqa.

Still, the US-Turkey intelligence agreement highlights a deep contradiction in US policy in the Middle East.

"After Tabqah is completely liberated, the SDF and coalition forces will continue operations to isolate and seize Raqqa", the coalition said in a statement.

The Arab-Kurdish alliance accepted ISIL's surrender to protect civilians and the dam, it said, adding "the coalition tracked fleeing fighters and targeted those that could be safely hit".

The capture of Tabqa seven weeks after the launch of the SDF offensive, with help from the US -led coalition, sets the stage for an advance on Raqqa, the de-facto capital of the extremists' self-styled caliphate, some 25 miles (40 kilometers) to the east.

They have been holding out in the northern neighbourhoods, and in the structure of the nearby dam, which the United Nations had previously warned was risked flooding the area if it was damaged. The Kurdish-led forces were clearing the town and the dam Thursday of land mines, the militants' favorite weapon.

Pentagon chief spokesperson Dana White said Mattis reiterated US commitment to protecting Turkey, which is deeply opposed to the arms agreement and has called for its reversal.

The YPG has been seen by Washington as the best ally against militants in Syria.

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The decision is meant to accelerate the Raqqa operation but undermines the Turkish government's view that the Syrian Kurdish YPG as an extension of the PKK.

A first consignment of US weapons is already in place for delivery and could be dispatched to the Kurds "very quickly", US Colonel John Dorrian said Wednesday. US officials have indicated that 120 mm mortars, machine guns, ammunition and light armored vehicles were possibilities.

"I have no doubt that Turkey and the United States will work this out with due considerations, significant attention paid to Turkey's security to NATO's security and the continuing campaign against ISIS", Mattis said, using an alternate acronym for IS.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought Thursday to ease Turkish concerns over the White House decision to arm a Syrian Kurdish group viewed as terrorists by Ankara.

"We believe that from now on and after this historic decision, [the YPG] will play a stronger, more influential and more decisive role in combating terrorism at a fast pace", Redur Xelil, YPG spokesperson, said in a written statement.

"The secretary reiterated USA commitment to our North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally", stated the readout, provided by Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday called on the country's allies to "side with Ankara and not with terrorist organisations".

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