Secretary of Defense James Mattis has apparently promised Turkey that the Pentagon will take back arms provided to the Kurds once the Kurds are finished beating the Islamic State.
Turkish officials told the Associated Press that Mattis pledged to take back weapons given to the Kurds for the purpose of driving ISIS out of its headquarters in Raqqa, Syria.
These officials also added that the Pentagon will provide Turkey with a list of all the arms that have been shipped to the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led group. In addition, U.S. military advisers will be on the scene to make sure the arms stay within strict limits on the Syrian battlefield.
Provision of arms to the SDF has concerned Turkey, a NATO ally, as the country has a long-standing conflict with the Kurds and believes the SDF is closely related to a Kurdish insurgency movement in Turkey.
“I want to believe that Turkey’s allies will side with us, not with terrorist organizations,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. “I hope this mistake will be reversed as soon as possible.”
What’s notable about Mattis’ apparent comments is that they are the exact opposite of what the U.S. said publicly.
In May, Army Col. John Dorrian, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, said weapons given to the Kurds would be left with the Kurds, with the only caveat being that the U.S. will monitor weapon usage.
At the time, Mattis pledged to “work out any of the concerns” Turkey has. He also added that he was unconcerned about the effect that providing weapons to the Kurds would have on the NATO alliance.
“It’s not always tidy, but we work out the issues,” Mattis said.
SDF started a strong assault on Raqqa two weeks ago.
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