Published: Sat, May 13, 2017
U.S. | By Eddie Scott

US Defense chief affirms commitment to protecting Turkey

US Defense chief affirms commitment to protecting Turkey

Pentagon chief Jim Mattis met today with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in London, the most-high profile meeting between American and Turkish officials since the United States announced it would arm Kurdish fighters in Syria.

Dorrian said the SDF fully isolated IS fighters in the Taqba dam, the largest dam in Syria which is a key source of electricity for the region, from the rest of the city.

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

The SDF is led by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) which Ankara views as a terrorist organization over its alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Trump chose to arm the Syrian Kurds despite objections from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, Turkey.

A senior American official said the US will step up joint intelligence-sharing with the Turks in an effort to help them better target terrorists.

Washington says that arming the Kurdish forces is necessary to recapturing Raqqa, Islamic State's de facto capital in Syria and a hub for planning attacks against the West. A senior American official said the USA will step up joint intelligence-sharing with the Turks to help them better target terrorists. The Wall Street Journal reported the effort could end up doubling the capacity of an intelligence fusion center in Ankara. The official, who wasn't authorized to discuss the issue publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the USA has yet to provide the weapons.

"We'll work out any of the concerns", Mattis said referring to Turkey's concerns. Like Turkey, the US considers that group a terrorist organization.

The offensive has been supported by bombing raids by a US-led coalition, as well as coalition military advisers on the ground.

"Every single one of these weapons that are being provided to our partner force, we intend to account for them, and to ensure that they are pointed at ISIL", he said. "We never have and never will". Otherwise, the outcome won't only affect Turkey. Turkey wants the arms agreement reversed, and Yildirim on Wednesday said the USA can not use one terrorist group to fight another.

Mattis has played down the friction between the allies, saying that while "it's not always tidy", they will resolve any differences.

The seizure of Tabqa and Tabqa Dam comes just days after President Donald Trump authorized the Pentagon to equip the Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces. He has demanded Washington reverse the decision, and said he would take up the issue with Trump. Photo Credit: Thomas Watkins/AFP via Getty Images The Trump administration has not specified the kinds of arms to be provided. USA officials have indicated that 120 mm mortars, machine guns, ammunition and light armored vehicles were possibilities. The intent is to restrict the distribution and use of the weaponry and then require the Kurds to return it to US control, the officials said.

Even with the extra USA weaponry, the Kurds and their Syrian Arab partners are expected to face a hard and perhaps lengthy fight for control of Raqqa, which has been key to the extremists' state-building project.

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