Mar 05 2019

U.S. rerouted weapons to help Syrian Kurdish allies

As U.S. forces moved in on the last remnants of Islamic State (ISIS) last year, the Pentagon rerouted vast amounts of weapons and vehicles from Iraq to Syria to support its Kurdish allies, U.S.-based news outlet Al-Monitor reported on Monday.

Less than two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump decided to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, the Defense Department notified Congress that it had determined that supplies purchased for the Iraqi military would instead go to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), according to Al-Monitor.

The equipment included nearly 50 Humvees, 20 mine-resistant vehicles, 40 enhanced armament carriers and nearly 700 light anti-tank weapons, along with more than 2,400 mortar rounds, 25 mine rollers and dozens of charges used to destroy mines and other explosives, the Defense Dept. letters indicate.

A Pentagon spokesman would not confirm whether the supplies had been moved, citing government policy, according to Al-Monitor.

“Ensuring that the SDF are sufficiently equipped has been critical to the SDF’s hard-fought campaign to liberate the Middle Euphrates River Valley from [IS] control,” the spokesman told Al-Monitor last month.

The SDF is just days away from gaining control of the last holdouts of ISIS territory. The equipment would be helpful, “particularly to be able to overcome entrenched [IS] defenses” and vehicle-born improvised explosive devices, Nick Heras, a Middle East fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told Al-Monitor.

The U.S. equipment might also be helpful if the SDF faces a Turkish military assault, which Ankara has repeatedly vowed to do.