March 13, 2017

US puts off announcing decision on Raqqa until after Turkey referendum

By Nicholas Heras

Source: Al-Monitor

Journalist(s) Amberin Zaman

The Trump administration’s internal debate over how to capture Raqqa, the so-called capital of the Islamic State (IS), is continuing nearly two weeks after the Pentagon presented the White House with a detailed blueprint on how to do the job.

The US Central Command remains strongly in favor of moving ahead with the Syrian Kurdish group known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and their Arab allies who operate under the umbrella of the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF). But concerns over Turkey, a critical NATO ally, are holding up plans to arm and train the SDF under the terms of a special presidential dispensation known as Section 1209 that permits the Pentagon to arm nonstate foreign militias. Turkey has repeatedly warned against giving the YPG modern sophisticated weapons, saying the group could transfer these to its ally, the Kurdistan Workers Party, which is fighting for autonomy inside Turkey.

Trump has not signed Section 1209 for the SDF yet even though the Obama administration recommended he do so. The announcement of a final decision on Raqqa has likely been put off until after Turkey votes in a referendum April 16 that would formalize the sweeping powers President Recep Tayyip Erdogan already wields. Washington is worried that Erdogan will use the issue to whip up further anti-Americanism and take further aggressive action against the YPG in Syria to boost nationalist votes.

Read the full article at Al-Monitor.

  • Nicholas Heras

    Bacevich Fellow, Middle East Security Program

    Mr. Nicholas A. Heras is the Bacevich Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), working in the Middle East Security Program. From 2013-2014, he served as a rese...