US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday left open the possibility of longer-term assistance to Kurdish YPG militia in Syria, saying the US may need to supply them weapons and equipment even after the capture of Raqqa from ISIS.
NATO ally Turkey, which views the YPG as a threat, has said Mattis assured it in a letter that the United States would eventually take back the weapons it was giving them once ISIS was defeated.
Mattis, in his first public remarks on the issue, did not directly dispute that account.
“We’ll do what we can,” Mattis told reporters during his flight to Germany, when asked about weapons recovery.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis appears at news conference following a Diplomatic and Security Dialogue Meeting with a Chinese delegation including State Counselor Yang Jiechi and military Chief of Joint Staff Fang Fenghui, at the State Department in Washington, Wednesday, June 21, 2017. (File photo: AP)
But Mattis also noted that YPG fighters were well-armed even before the US last month decided to offer more specialised equipment for its urban assault on ISIS-held city of Raqqa.
Mattis also said the battle against ISIS would continue even after Raqqa was captured and focused his answers about US weapons’ recovery on items he believed the YPG would no longer need in battle.
Asked if Kurdish militia would revert to their pre-Raqqa level of armaments once the fight was over, Mattis responded: “Well, we’ll see. It depends what the next mission is. I mean, it’s not like the fight’s over when Raqqa’s over.”
The US, Mattis said, in the near-term would be recovering weapons that the group does not need anymore as the battle advances.
“We’ll be recovering (the weapons) during the battle, repairing them. When they don’t need certain things anymore, we’ll replace those with something they do need,” Mattis said.