World News

U.S. could distribute equipment to Syrian Kurds 'very quickly': spokesman

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States may start distributing some arms and equipment to Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria “very quickly” but it will be done incrementally and closely monitored, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State said on Wednesday.

Despite fierce opposition from NATO ally Turkey, U.S. President Donald Trump this week approved supplying arms to the YPG to support an operation to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from Islamic State.

“We’ve got a certain amount of supply in the country already that was used to equip the Syrian Arab Coalition and some of that may be distributed very quickly,” coalition spokesman U.S. Air Force Colonel John Dorrian told reporters. He did not give a timeline but said it would be incremental and provided as needed.

Turkey warned the United States on Wednesday that a decision to arm Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State in Syria could end up hurting Washington, and accused its NATO ally of siding with terrorists.

Turkey views the YPG as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought an insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984 and is considered a terrorist group by the United States, Turkey and Europe.

When asked if the weapons would be taken back from the Syrian Kurds after the Raqqa operation had been completed, Dorrian said YPG fighters would “expend these resources fighting ISIS,” using an acronym for Islamic State.

The weapons will include machine guns, ammunition and mortars.

Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Alistair Bell and James Dalgleish