In a break with his predecessor, President Trump has decided to go ahead and begin arming Syrian Kurds with weapons as an indirect way for the United States to battle with the Islamic State. Some call the move long overdue, while others point out the inherent risks anytime the US gets involved to tip the scales in favor of one bad option over another in the midst of what looks more like a civil war than a direct threat to the national security.
CNN reports on the policy change:
The US military began arming Syrian Kurds fighting ISIS Tuesday, in a move likely to anger America’s long-time ally Turkey.
The equipment will be provided to Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces and will include small arms, ammunition and vehicles, according to Maj. Adrian Rankine Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman.
On May 8 the Pentagon announced that President Donald Trump had authorized the “limited” arming of Syrian Kurds to help in the fight against the terror group, an announcement that drew immediate protests from senior Turkish officials.
US military officials have said the supplies and weapons will be parceled out to be just enough to accomplish specific objectives related to efforts to retake Raqqa from ISIS.
It is a move that has long been under consideration at the Pentagon but was delayed due to strong opposition from America’s NATO ally, Turkey.
Turkey is currently the most vocal nation against the move, according to the UK Independent:
The news was met with consternation in Ankara, where Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called the decision a “mistake”.
“Such steps are extremely dangerous for Syria’s unity and territorial integrity,” he added in a news conference on Wednesday.
Under Barack Obama’s administration, the US has long given quiet support to Kurdish fighters in the region, which are widely viewed as the most effective ground force against Isis.
Nato ally Turkey has protested the US-Kurdish alliance for years because it views the Turkish separatist PKK movement and its affiliates in Syria as terrorist organisations.
Republican Senate Joni Ernst, a veteran of the Iraq War, says the move is positive:
“This is an immense milestone,” Ernst says.
“They are heavily involved in the fighting against ISIS. And why would we not engage them? They have worked quite well with American forces and it’s the right thing to do,” Ernst says. “And I’m glad to see the president stands behind that.”
Like most foreign policy endeavors, the success or failure of such a move will be born out over time. If the Kurds can assist in retaking the city of Raqqa and pushing out ISIS into the peripheral, it could be a net positive. However, whenever the US sends weapons into an unstable region, they often become instruments used against our own soldiers as stock piles lay abandon or disappear into the various factions.