US plans to directly arm Syria Kuds against Islamic State

FBI Director James Comey arrives for a meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Organized Crime Council and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Executive Committee in Washington D.C

The Pentagon, however, states it is "keenly aware" of security concerns voiced by its Turkish allies.

Two officials told NBC News that President Donald Trump has signed the order for the United States to provide the Syrian Kurds with arms and equipment. Mr. Erdogan has routinely lambasted the White House for its battlefield support of Kurdish groups such as Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG.

The decision is meant to accelerate the Raqqa operation but undermines the Turkish government's view that the Syrian Kurdish group known as the YPG is an extension of a Kurdish terrorist organization that operates in Turkey.

"Our intent is to work with the Turks alongside one another to take Raqqa down, " Mattis said during a news conference in Denmark.

A top aide to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that USA troops could be hit by Turkish missiles if they stay in the region alongside the Kurdish fighters.

And in Denmark earlier Tuesday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the US and Turkey are working out their differences.

The SDF, which comprises Kurdish and Arab militias, is supported by elite U.S. forces and air strikes from a US-led coalition.

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A senior US official says the Trump administration has approved providing heavier weapons to the People's Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian affiliate of the PKK, as they move closer to the key Daesh stronghold of Raqqa.

The United States continues to prioritize its support for Arab elements of the SDF, she said, adding that Raqqa and all liberated territory should return to the governance of local Syrian Arabs.

YPG elements could receive mortars, heavy machine guns and armored tactical vehicles as part of the Trump administration's plan, The Associated Press reported. They said the USA would not provide artillery or surface-to-air missiles.

Saleh Muslim, co-chair of the Syrian Kurdish PYD party, the YPG's political affiliate, said the US decision was expected.

The U.S. support for the SDF has been a major strain on relations between Washington and Ankara.

Officials from the Turkish embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Washington Times regarding the YPG arms deal. "We'll figure out how we're going to do it".

The US-backed campaign against the Islamic State is just one of several parallel conflicts unfolding in Syria after more than six years of civil war. The Turks have insisted that the Syrian Kurds be excluded from that operation, but US officials insisted there was no real alternative. Last month, Turkish warplanes launched assaults on Kurdish fighters in Iraq and Syria, killing more than a dozen people, and prompting a public condemnation from Washington. The Turkish military said it killed at least 90 fighters and wounded scores.

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