Syrian Kurdish official praises US decision to provide arms

In this Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016 file photo, Turkish army tanks and armored personnel carriers move toward the Syrian border, in Karkamis, Turkey. Last month, Turkey for the first time sent tanks across the border into Syria to help rebels clear territory of IS militants and to contain the expansion of a Syrian Kurdish militia. (AP Photo/Halit Onur Sandal, File)

 

BEIRUT (AP) — A top Syrian Kurdish official says the U.S. decision to arm Kurdish fighters with heavier weapons will help legitimize the force, which is denounced as a terrorist organization by Turkey.

The Trump administration announced Tuesday it will arm the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces “as necessary” to recapture the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa. NATO ally Turkey strongly objects to the alliance because it sees the Kurds as an extension of the insurgency raging in its southeast.

Ilham Ahmed, a top official in the Syrian Democratic Forces’ political office, tells The Associated Press Wednesday the decision means the SDF is the force designated to recapture Raqqa.

She said the decision is likely to be met with “aggression” from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is to visit Washington next week.

 

A senior Republican senator is firmly backing the Trump administration’s decision to supply Syria’s Kurds with the heavier weapons they need to effectively fight the Islamic State group.

The chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, says arming the Kurds is “the only viable solution right now” as an attack on the extremists stronghold of Raqqa nears.

Is he overly concerned how ally Turkey may react? Corker says: “No. Sorry.”

He adds: Turkey’s “interests and ours are not aligned right now. At some point you’ve got to make a decision.”

He says he anticipates the U.S. will have “a little bit of a rub with Turkey for a period of time.”

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