Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ Receive Modern U.S.-Arms Ahead of Raqqa Battle | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A U.S. fighter walks down a barricade, north the Raqqa city, Syria, Nov. 6/ Reuters- Rodi Sald

Beirut- Kurdish troops fighting along the so-called “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF) have lately received modern U.S. military equipment, weapons and ammunition, as part of their preparation for the Raqqa battle.

While Kurds considered this American support as a proof of its strong relationship with Washington, observers placed it in the frame of the U.S. pressure tool exerted on Turkey, which refuses rebel Kurds to play any role in the Raqqa battle.

Observers also linked the military aid to the delayed arrival of the Ankara-backed “Euphrates Shield Forces” to the outskirts of al-Bab city, which is considered the last ISIS stronghold in northwest Aleppo province. They said an attack on al-Bab needs a U.S.-Russian-Turkish agreement that has not yet been reached.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had first reported the U.S. military aid offered to Kurdish militias, quoting “reliable” sources.

“A large arms shipment sent by the International Coalition has arrived to Syrian Democratic Forces in the Raqqa countryside and the Hasaka province,” the Observatory said.

The group added that the weapons were transferred through the city of al-Qameshli located at the Turkish border to the countryside of Raqqa province and Ain al-Arab area.

Kurdish commander Nawaf Khalil asserted to Asharq Al-Awsat that SDF militias, which mainly include militias from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, had received “in the last few days modern weapons sent by the U.S. and the International Coalition.”

Criticizing Ankara, Khalil, who is the spokesperson of Syria’s leading Kurdish Democratic Union Party, said this new development proves the International Coalition totally trusts the SDF, a relationship that Turkey was trying to damage.

The Kurdish commander added that the military development coincides with the presence of U.S. forces in the area in addition to U.S., German, French and British experts on the ground.

The Raqqa battle aims to encircle the city by taking control over surrounding villages and access routes to weaken ISIS and then liberate the city.

But Free Syrian Army commander Ahmad Rahal told Asharq Al-Awsat on Saturday that the “U.S. military aid offered to Kurds was normal because Kurds are the strategic allies of the Americans since the Iraqi War.”

Rahal added that the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence trust the Kurds as both had previously used them in Iraq. “They are using them today in Syria as a paper to exert pressure on Turks,” he said.

Lebanese political analyst and researcher Dr. Sami Nader said that the U.S. position regarding the latest developments in Syria was still unclear. In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Nader said the Americans stand between the need of Turks, who provide the Sunni cover in Syria to balance with the Iranian role, and the need of the Kurdish forces on the ground.