The US has delivered its advanced Javelin and TOW anti-tank missile systems to the Kurdish Self-Defence Forces (YPG), based in the northern Syrian city of Manbij, the Turkish newspaper Yeni Akit cited sources as saying.
The sources claimed that right now, Turkey’s special forces are trying to track these systems, as the YPG is “preparing a trap for Turkish tanks which are ready to enter Manbij”.
The reported developments come after Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar reiterated during his meeting with Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Turkey’s call on the US to promptly withdraw the US-backed YPG forces from Manbij.
Earlier, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced that Ankara would launch a military operation east of the Euphrates River if the US failed to withdraw its troops from the Arab Republic in time.
In a separate development this week, President Donald Trump, for his part, warned on his Twitter page that the US will “devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds”.
The US support for Kurdish militants, who have been fighting Daesh in Syria, remains a major sticking point in relations between Washington and Ankara. Turkey considers the YPG to be affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is banned by Ankara as a terrorist organisation.
The issue has intensified since Trump declared victory over Daesh in December 2018, claiming that he would withdraw some 2,000 US troops from Syria. When addressing the matter, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that the US would ensure that the Turkish military does not massacre the Kurdish militants.
In May of that year, Erdogan slammed Washington for arming Kurdish “terrorists” and presumed that those weapons would be eventually used against the Turkish Army.
“Thousands of trucks and cargo planes with weapons have arrived [in Syria],” the Turkish president said. “When we tell them [the US] about it, they respond by saying that they will take the weapons back — a scenario that we saw in Iraq. Their weapons are in the hands of the PKK [the Kurdistan Workers’ Party]. If a tenth of their allocation for the killing of people would have been spent on humanitarian aid, there would be no questions”, he said.
Trump approved the provision of small arms, ammunition, machine guns, and armoured vehicles to Kurdish fighters in May 2017, with the aim of expelling Daesh from its stronghold in Raqqa.