US military formation in Syria will change to support Geneva talk, US Defense Minister says.
“Yeah, we are going to go exactly along the lines of what the President announced,” Mattis told reporters on a military plane en route to Cairo, in response to a question whether the U.S. would stop arming the PKK/PYD.
Trump and his Turkish counterpart Erdogan spoke over the phone last week to discuss the recently-concluded Sochi summit, Syria crisis and bilateral ties.
During their conversation, Trump told Erdogan that Washington will not give the PKK/PYD terror group weapons anymore.
The PYD and its military wing YPG are Syrian branches of the PKK terrorist network which has waged war against Turkey for more than 30 years and taken thousands of lives.
Mattis also said the U.S. will change the formation of its military power in Syria in order to support ongoing negotiations in Geneva.
The Geneva II Conference on Syria was a UN-backed international peace conference on the future of Syria with the aim of ending the Syrian Civil War by bringing together the Syrian government and the opposition to discuss clear steps towards a transitional government.
Recalling the U.S. announcement yesterday that it would withdraw its artillery units from Syria, Mattis said the focus would move towards holding territory instead of arming the PKK/PYD.
“The YPG is armed and as the coalition stops offensive then obviously you don’t need that, you need security, you need police forces, that is local forces, that is people who make certain that ISIS doesn’t come back,” Mattis said, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, another name for Daesh.
He said that the U.S. took this decision in Syria in order to support diplomats to bring an end to the war.
“The troops are changing their stance...that includes with our allies who are now changing their stance as they come to the limits of where they are going,” Mattis added.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization in Turkey, the U.S. and the EU. In its over three-decade terror campaign against Turkey, more than 40,000 people have been killed.
Since the group resumed its armed campaign in July 2015, more than 1,200 people, including security force personnel and civilians, have lost their lives.