Small Wars Journal

Guns for the Syrian Kurds - Move is Worthwhile - But Not Without Risks

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 2:57pm

Guns for the Syrian Kurds - Move is Worthwhile - But Not Without Risks - Wall Street Journal Editorial

Donald Trump inherited bad and worse options for dealing with Syria. This week the President selected one of the less bad ones by approving a plan to arm Syrian Kurds combating Islamic State.

The Pentagon on Wednesday said it’s preparing to deliver the first cache to the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units, or YPG. The weapons are intended to bolster the Kurdish fighters as they set out to dislodge the caliphate from its “capital” of Raqqa. Washington already provides the YPG with air cover and special-forces help.

The arms transfer will solidify the YPG’s position as the main American proxy on the ground in Syria, not that there are many alternatives. There is no comparably reliable partner in the areas where the YPG fights.

The Kurdish fighters have also proved themselves on the battlefield. On Wednesday they took control of Taqba, 33 miles west of Raqqa and home to Syria’s largest dam. Their successes going back to 2014’s battle of Kobane have led the Pentagon to conclude that the fastest way to liberate Raqqa is cooperation with the Kurds.

There are risks to arming the YPG. Kurds make for poor liberators in Arab areas such as Raqqa. Kurdish forces can defeat Islamic State militarily outside traditionally Kurdish areas, but it’s harder for them to hold and govern territories that are majority Sunni Arab. The YPG does have Arab allies in its ranks, and the Pentagon should insist that Arabs take the lead in Raqqa.

The bigger worry is Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sees the YPG as a thinly disguised Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, the U.S.-designated terror group he is fighting in southeast Turkey. Mr. Erdogan says the U.S. is using terrorists to fight terrorists…

Read on.