Pentagon: U.S. will support Kurdish militia after Raqqa fighting

By Andrew V. Pestano  |  June 28, 2017 at 11:47 AM
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June 28 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said the Pentagon will continue to support the Kurdish militia known as the People's Protection Units, or YPG, in their battle against the Islamic State after Raqqa, Syria is freed.

During a news conference on Tuesday, Mattis said the recovery of weapons and equipment supplied to the Kurdish militia is dependent on several factors, including the success against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh.

In response to a question about the Turkish government commenting that the United States would recover weapons from the Kurdish militia, Mattis said the U.S. Defense Department would continue supporting the YPG after Raqqa is freed.

"They had plenty of weapons. They were beating ISIS in every battle. They never lost an inch of terrain to them," Mattis said. "What we gave them were weapons for urban fighting, basically. These are weapons -- number one, we'll be recovering them during the battle, repairing them. When they don't need certain things anymore we'll replace those with something they do need."

Mattis said the Pentagon would recover gear no longer needed by the YPG but would offer other equipment, such as light trucks, when necessary.

"We're going to continue the fight against ISIS until we get them," Mattis said. "This is stuff [YPG] needed for this fight. That's what we wanted to give them, the weapons they need for this fight ... You know, I mean it's not like the fight's over when Raqqa's over."

The YPG is a member of the Syrian Democratic Forces militia, or SDF, which launched a ground offensive to capture the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa on June 6.

The U.S.-led international coalition fighting the Islamic State supports the SDF by providing equipment, training, intelligence and logistics support, airstrikes and battlefield advice.

The SDF has called on Raqqa residents to evacuate so they do not become trapped, are not killed by Islamic State snipers and are not used as human shields.

Turkey considers the YPG to be an armed terrorist organization, partly because the Turkish government links the militia to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, armed rebel group.

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