US drops 50 tonnes of ammunition onto northern Syria

Fifty tonnes of ammunition have been dropped overnight to certain positions in northern Syria

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

More than a dozen villages were destroyed by the YPG militants, according to a report released by Amnesty International

Updated Oct 14, 2015

US military cargo planes dropped 50 tonnes of ammunition onto a newly formed coalition in northern Syria, Reuters news agency reported on Tuesday.

The ammunition was reportedly dropped in Syria's Hasakah province for a coalition of groups dubbed Syrian Democratic Forces, which are led by the YPG, the Syrian branch of the outlawed PKK.

The US military dropped 112 pallets of ammunition, all of which have been successfully collected by “friendly factions,” according to an unnamed senior US official who spoke to CNN. The details of the operation were confirmed by a US official, but details have not yet been made public.

According to local sources, two-thirds of the alliance is made up of Kurdish YPG militants whom were blamed for war crimes by Amnesty International, the London-based rights watchdog.

US State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said, in response to allegations that US has equipped the YPG with weaponry; “Well, we consider them (YPG) a very effective fighting force against ISIL (ISIS), and as such, we’ve supported them with air strikes and other supplies, but not ammunition.”

However, a commander of the Kurdish YPG militia, Polat Can, had stated differently in an interview with McClatchy DC. “They (US) started dropping the arms in Rojava early this morning,” he said, referring to Kurdish areas of the northern Syria.

The weapons dropped in Rojava included assault rifles, mortars and ammunition – but no TOW anti-tank missiles nor anti-aircraft weapons were provided, Can added.

'US and Turkey should get together'

Gulnur Aybet, a political science professor from Bahcesehir University, says that "from the very beginning of the conflict, all Western governments have had this dilemma about the ground troops. Nobody wants to put ground troops in Syria. You cannot win through air power alone. US have relied on forces on the ground for fighting ISIS, then they turned to YPG, and YPG has been supportive."

"This is very troublesome when you look at it from the perspective of Turkey; this increased augmentation of arms going to a group that is predominantly numbered and literally controlled by the YPG," Aybet added.

Aybet cites the former US Ambassador for Turkey, James Jeffrey as saying "we turned to the YPG out of desperation. We didn't even know who they were until about a year ago, so it is not like we are using them against Turkey, but we have no choice because they are the only one fighting ISIS on the ground."

Professor Aybet continued to say "that statement alone, that the United States policy and the recent airdrop to this area for a group predominantly governed by the Syrian Kurds, indicates that it has not been thought through carefully. Turkey and the US should really get together and have a very heart to heart chat about how to resolve this situation." 

YPG militants commit 'war crimes'

The London-based rights watchdog, Amnesty International, released a report on Tuesday saying more than a dozen villages were destroyed by the PYD which is supported by the United States, describing them as war crimes.

“This report uncovers clear evidence of a deliberate, coordinated campaign of collective punishment of civilians in villages previously captured by ISIS, or where a small minority were suspected of supporting the group," said Lama Fakih of Amnesty International, who carried out the research.

Some civilians were threatened by militants of YPG with the US-led air strikes if they failed to leave their homes, according to the report.

“They told us we had to leave or they would tell the US coalition that we were terrorists and their planes would hit us and our families,” said one of the residents, quoted by the report.

The UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria has also mentioned YPG's actions against civilians.

“Following the YPG’s retaking of previously ISIS-controlled areas of Tal Abyad in early July and villages in the Tel Tamer region of Al Hasakah, YPG fighters reportedly looted houses belonging to Arab villagers,” Pinheiro said.

“The commission always reported on violence committed by the YPG in previous reports.”

New US standards

The Pentagon’s new strategy includes lowering vetting standards designed to ensure rebels do not have links with the other armed groups that the US stands against, a top defence official said.

''This is a different approach where we are going to be vetting leaders as opposed to each individual fighter," Christine Wormuth, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, said on Friday.

The new strategy makes it easier to provide military equipment or air strikes to support armed groups whom the US recognises as friendly forces in Syria fighting against ISIS.

"It allows us to be a little bit more flexible, a little bit more adaptive, a little bit quicker to get the support to the groups that are fighting now," said Brett McGurk, the top White House envoy for the fight against ISIS.

This is considered as the first step for the Obama administration to find an alternative way to defeat ISIS in northern Syria.

However, Turkey has expressed serious concerns about ammunition ending up in the hands of the PKK terrorists.

In a meeting with the President of the European Council (EC), Donald Tusk on Oct. 5, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he hoped EU countries would act seriously against "terrorist organisations" and understand that there is no difference between the PYD and the PKK.

YPG welcomes Russian air strikes in Syria

President of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) Salih Muslim has responded positively to the recent Russian intervention in the country.

However, the YPG militias are loyal to the PYD and so far they have been the closest on-the-ground ally of the US in the fight against ISIS. “We will fight alongside whoever fights Daesh [ISIS],” said Muslim.

Turkey and the US are mainly in agreement over general terms of their Syrian policies, however, this is not the case with YPG.

A declaration was made by Turkey in late June stating that Turkey would consider any incursion to the west of the Euphrates river in northern Syria along the Turkish border by the PYD as a “violation of the red line” and that Turkey will never allow the establishment of a Kurdish controlled state in northern Syria.

TRTWorld and agencies