US denies it arms YPG in Syria
The U.S. on Thursday denied it has provided arms to the Kurdish YPG in Syria, despite the insistence of the group to the contrary.
"We are playing an advise and assist role," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. "But assisting is not specifically providing arms."
He said, however, that there is a lot of "liberated" equipment being used on the battlefield and that it was impossible to say where from where they come. "We just don't have the clarity on that," he said.
The YPG is the armed wing of the PYD -- the Syrian offshoot of the PKK, which is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU.
Toner's comments come after media reports said the YPG has admitted it is being armed by U.S. forces.
Images on the group’s social media accounts show the YPG with American-made armored vehicles and American-supplied weapons, according to media reports.
In addition, several recent photos on social media show American soldiers wearing uniforms with a YPG badge as they conduct front line operations moving toward the self-declared 'capital' of Daesh in Raqqa, Syria.
Two offensives with U.S.-led coalition support are currently underway in the war against Daesh.
While the Iraqi army makes progress in an operation to retake the Iraqi city of Fallujah, the YPG is fighting in northern Raqqa to recapture that city from Daesh.
If those offensives are successful, critics say it would cause Shia forces to flow into Fallujah and the YPG into Raqqa, although both cities are largely populated by Sunni Arabs.
Asked about the U.S.’ position on the issue, Toner said America has been working to "diversify" the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) -- YPG-led alliance of Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian, Armenian, Turkmen and Circassian militants fighting Daesh and al-Nusra in Syria.
He said that the town of Shaddadi in Syria, recaptured a few weeks ago by the SDF, consists of 60 percent Kurds and 40 percent Arabs and "other elements."
Toner added that the Pentagon recently graduated a class of 200 Arabs who are joining the fight against Daesh and that it was currently training another class of 200.
"We're cognizant of the need to have diversified forces conducting these kinds of operations, given the sensitivities of the communities that they're liberating," he said.
Last Modified: 2016-05-27 09:05:03
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