Pentagon says it will arm Syrian Kurds, despite Turkey's objections

U.S military vehicles and Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) drive in the town of Darbasiya next to the Turkish border, Syria April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Rodi Said

VILNIUS (Reuters) - President Donald Trump has authorized arming Kurdish fighters in Syria “as necessary to ensure a clear victory” in a planned assault to retake the city of Raqqa from Islamic State, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, in a likely blow to U.S. ties with Turkey.

Ankara had fiercely opposed supplying the Kurdish elements of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, viewing the YPG as the Syrian extension of the Kurdish PKK militant group, which has fought an insurgency in Turkey’s southeast since 1984.

“We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White, who is traveling with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Lithuania, said in a statement. “We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the U.S. is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally.”

Reporting by Phil Stewart in Vilnius; editing by Grant McCool