Last week, the Department of Defense announced the end of its “train and equip” program, which many considered a failure. In response, the White House announced plans to provide support to Kurdish and Syrian Arab groups.
The United States’ new “equip and enable” program will supply arms, equipment and air support to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), with the goal of rolling back and defeating ISIS.
An Effective Partner
For months, U.S. officials have been praising the Syrian Kurdish forces. U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter called YPG fighters “the most effective partner in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria.”
Unlike the moderate Syrian opposition, which the United States once supported with its “train and equip” program, the Kurds in Syria have proven their ability to take ground back from the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
For months, the Kurdish YPG held the defense of Kobani against an onslaught of Islamic State terrorists. With the help of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in December, the Kurdish YPG pushed ISIS out of Kobani, and has been rolling back the terrorist organization ever since.
The Pentagon has reported the delivery of small arms, ammunition and grenades over the Kurdish-held area of al-Hasakah. These weapons were air dropped on pallets via C-17 cargo airplanes. The Pentagon said the more than 100 pallets dropped in Hasakeh were collected safely.
This policy is in direct opposition to the United States’ policy towards the Kurds fighting ISIS in Iraq, where direct armament of the Iraqi Kurds has not been allowed.
Pushing into ISIS Territory
The next step for the Kurdish YPG will be to push into Islamic State-held territory. A source on the ground told Reuters that they had been told that the supplies were to help the Kurds and others launch a joint offensive on the city of Raqqa – an Islamic State stronghold.
This effort will be part of a greater alliance between the YPG, Arab militias, and Assyrian Christian fighters. Called the Democratic Forces of Syria, this group will be led by the Kurdish YPG, and will be the primary armed group that the United States will support in Syria.[Read more at Al-Monitor]