US begins arming Syrian Kurds in effort to retake ISIS stronghold

The U.S. military has started arming Syrian Kurds in an effort to capture the so-called ISIS capital of Raqqa, Fox News confirmed Tuesday.

The move is likely to anger NATO ally Turkey, which considers the Kurds a terrorist organization.

The Pentagon announced earlier this month that it would begin arming Syrian Kurdish fighters to ensure that it topples ISIS strongholds. Pentagon spokeswoman Dana W. White said at the time that it was the best path to victory against brutal ISIS fighters.


The Kurds are the “only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future,” White said.

There are no details yet on what armaments the Syrian Kurds will receive. But earlier this month U.S. defense officials told Fox News the plan included supplying machine guns, small arms, ammunition, bulldozers and armored vehicles such as the M1117 Guardian.

Coalition spokesman Col. John Dorrian said the weapons will not be reclaimed after the specific missions are completed but the U.S. will "carefully monitor" where and how they are used. "Every single one" of the weapons will be accounted for and the U.S. will "assure they are pointed at" ISIS, he said.

But opposition fighters battling Syrian forces amid the country's six-year civil war — some of them backed by Turkey — say there is simply no guarantee the weapons will not be directed against them or others. U.S.-backed Kurdish groups have often clashed with Turkey-backed groups in northern Syria, where a multitude of factions are jostling to maintain various zones of influence.


Turkey has long considered the YPG an extension of the PKK, a Kurdish insurgent group which has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey killing tens of thousands of civilians. Both Washington and Ankara consider the PKK a terrorist group, but the U.S. military has long said the YPG represent the best fighters on the ground in Syria against ISIS.

“We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey,” a Pentagon spokesperson said earlier this month. “We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the U.S. is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally.”

The U.S. military has based dozens of jets and other aircraft at a Turkish airbase near the border with Syria to conduct airstrikes against ISIS.

Fox News' Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.