A US convoy drives through northern Syria in support of anti-ISIS operations. Photo: Delil Souliman | AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — As part of the 2018 US defense spending bill, President Donald Trump authorized $393 million in support for the international coalition's partnered ground forces that include Kurdish elements of the YPG.
"He openly said that this absurdity should have ended much earlier," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had told Hurriyet Daily News, according to a Sunday report.
Trump and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by telephone in November. The White House readout did not mention People's Protection Unit in Syria (YPG); relevantly Trump underscored "a unified Syria free of malign intervention and terrorist safe havens."
Turkey's conflates the YPG with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a listed terrorist organization by the United States and Turkey. The YPG denies any organic links to the PKK. The SDF form the backbone of the US's vetted partners in Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
After the Trump-Erdogan call, Cavusoglu said Trump had told Erdogan the United States will cease supplying arms to the Syrian Kurdish fighters, the AP reported.
"Mr. Trump clearly stated that he had given clear instructions and that the YPG won't be given arms and that this nonsense should have ended a long time ago," Cavusoglu then said at a news conference.
The United States has not formally announced it would cease support for the YPG.
Brett McGurk, the US Special Presidential Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, explained after the intense urban fighting in Raqqa "adjustments in the level of military support" will be made during a special briefing on December 20.
"[W]e had to give some equipment – and it's limited, extremely limited – all of which was very transparent to our NATO ally, Turkey," said McGurk.
The major support for the SDF in Raqqa "required a presidential decision," revealed the SPE.
"Now that that major phase of operations is over, there will be adjustments in the level of military support," added McGurk.
He said US support will remain for local hold forces — the Raqqa Internal Security Force — as well as "continue to work with the Syrian Democratic Forces."
"But as the years goes on, there will be adjustments to the type of support, just given the way the campaign is proceeding," said McGurk. "I think that's very natural."
The US defense spending bill for 2018 includes $393 million in aid for Syrian partners in the anti-ISIS war.