US general visited Syrian Kurdish forces and their allies in northern Syria, amid signs the US military was increasing its support for anti-ISIS forces, despite risks that such a move could anger Turkey.
General Joseph Votal, head of US Central Command, discussed the ongoing operation to seize Islamic State’s de-facto Syrian capital al-Raqqa, according to a statement released overnight from Talal Selo, a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The SDF is dominated by the Kurdish YPG but has a growing number of Arab members, according to the group and US officials.
Votel last visited the territory under SDF control in May, making this his first trip under President Donald Trump.
Selo said the meetings looked into further support for the operations. It remains unclear whether Trump will agree to supply heavy weapons to the militia, which is the main US military ally in Syria.
Turkey is demanding the Kurds withdraw from Manbij. More generally, Ankara is angered by the alliance between the US and the SDF, which is now working to encircle al-Raqqa as part of a swiftly advancing operation.
Turkey, a NATO member, says the YPG is linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which it deems a terrorist group. The Syrian Kurds deny this and say they do not plan to attack Turkey.
The New York Times quoted US commanders as insisting the Kurds are needed in the battle for al-Raqqa and that the SDF will require better weapons.