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US arming Syrian militants on border with Iraq to block popular forces

31 May 2017 10:01

 

Syrian militants say Washington has increased its arms supplies to them in order to block Iraq’s pro-government Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) from creating a supply route between Iraq and Syria.

On Monday, the PMU, also known as Hashd al-Sha’abi, reached the Syrian border during their anti-Daesh operations being carried out to the west of Mosul.

They have played a major role in the liberation of Daesh-held areas to the south, northeast and north of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, ever since the terrorists launched an offensive in the country in June 2014.

On Tuesday, a leader of one of the militant groups operating under the US-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) said that there has been an increase in foreign military support. “There’s no way we can let them open the Baghdad-Damascus highway,” said Tlass Salameh.

A commander of another militant group operating with the FSA also announced that since earlier in the month a steady flow of weapons had been arriving at their base.

“The equipment and reinforcements come and go daily … but in the last few weeks they have brought in more heavy military vehicles, TOW (missiles), and armored vehicles,” he added.

The PMU’s top commander, Hadi al-Ameri, has said that his forces’ reaching the Syrian border will help Damascus forces reach in from their side.

Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units’ (PMU) top commander Hadi al-Ameri

 

‘US-led airstrikes almost useless’

Meanwhile, Ameri said the US’s airstrikes during the operations to liberate Mosul from Daesh were almost useless.

Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January and launched the battle in the western part of the city in February. The operation has taken longer than planned as Takfiri elements have hidden themselves among civilians and are fighting back with car bombs, booby traps, mortar fire and snipers.

Ameri stressed that Iraqi’s air force was doing a much better job in subduing the Takfiri occupying forces.

The US-led anti-terror coalition has been under much criticism due to the high number of civilian casualties.

On Sunday, at least 20 Iraqi civilians have been killed in airstrikes conducted by US-led coalition in the northern parts of Mosul’s Old City.

Late last month, the US also admitted that at least 352 civilians had been killed in its airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since 2014, but rights groups provided a higher toll.

US begins arming Syrian Kurds

Also on Tuesday, the US announced that it had started to provide small arms to Kurdish forces battling Daesh in northern Syria in a move which has drawn severe anger from Turkey.

The arm’s supply began ahead of major operations aimed at liberating the northern Syria city of Raqqah from the Daesh terrorist group.

“We have begun to transfer small arms and vehicles to the Kurdish elements” of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway.

A militant from the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, stands next to a military vehicle supplied by the US-led coalition, as they gather near a village northeast of Raqqah on February 3, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

 

He added that the arms include AK-47s and small-caliber machine guns.

On May 9, US President Donald Trump authorized the arming of Kurdish forces in Syria despite fierce opposition from Turkey.

At the time, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana W. White said arming the Kurds was the best path to victory against Daesh.

The Kurds are the “only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqah in the near future,” White said.

The US currently provides air support for members of the SDF — a Kurdish-dominated and anti-Damascus alliance. They have largely surrounded Raqqah and are expected to begin an offensive soon.

The SDF is led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) which Ankara views as a terrorist organization over its alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Different foreign-backed terrorist groups have been wreaking havoc in Syria since 2011.

Over the past few months, Syrian forces have made sweeping gains against Takfiri elements who have lately increased their acts of violence across the country following a series of defeats on the ground.

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