US, Turkey still disagree on arming Kurds, as SDF progress into

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ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are continuing to work to push ISIS militants out of a military base in the north of Raqqa city, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan again expressed dissatisfaction with the United States arming Kurdish forces for the operation.

“I don’t know what kinds of a future you will have in Syria with the terrorist organization you chose,” Hurriyet Daily News reported Erdogan as saying on Sunday in reference to US support for the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, “but you must know that you will not have a future with us.”

The coalition has said that it would meter out weapons to partnered ground forces in an as-needed basis. Turkey links the YPG to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is a listed terrorist organization by Ankara, Washington, D.C., and the European Union.

The Coalition spokesperson US Col. Ryan Dillon acknowledged to reporters on Friday that US Secretary of Defense James Mattis had sent a letter to his counterpart in Ankara regarding reassurances for the supplied weapons, but we wouldn’t elaborate on it because that was “between them.”

“So, that process is already in place right now,” Dillon said. “And we will continue to be transparent with our Turkish allies.”

There were social media reports of SDF forces retaking al-Farikh village south of Raqqa city. Previously, ground forces led by the primarily Kurdish YPG had imposed a crescent-shaped siege from the west, north, and east. 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based conflict monitor, reported that SDF forces were continuing “the separation” of the 17th Division on Sunday.” The ISIS-held 17th Division is a former Syrian army facility in the north of the city.

The Raqqa Campaign announced that Wrath of the Euphrates campaign forces “liberated Qadisiyah neighborhood” in the west as part of the new “four-axes tactical plan,” while Hawar News Agency reported ongoing clashes between ISIS and SDF in Qadisiyah.

“Since June 6, five neighborhoods have been completely liberated: al-Jazra, al-Sabahiyah, al-Mushlab, al-Sina’a and al-Batani, in addition, half of Huteen neighborhood has been liberated,” Hawar reported on Friday.

The US-led international coalition to defeat ISIS has supported partnered ground forces with weapons, training, artillery and air strikes.

Dillon also said on Friday that the SDF has retaken 45 kilometers of ground from ISIS in and around ISIS’ de facto capital Raqqa in the third week of the offensive.

During a conference this week in Israel, the US Special Presidential Envoy to the Coalition talked about the rise of ISIS in Syria.

“Back in 2014 if you rewind the tape, that announcement of a caliphate accelerated recruitment from around the world,” Brett McGurk said. “Thousands of young men, women, and even children traveled through Turkey and into Syria through established smuggling networks.”




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