US commanders planning for the withdrawal of troops from Syria have recommended that Kurdish fighters be permitted to keep US-supplied weapons, a move that would incense NATO ally Turkey.
Three officials, speaking to Reuters news agency on the condition of anonymity, said the recommendations were part of discussions on a draft plan by the US military.
While talks are at an early stage, no decision has yet been made, the officials noted.
The Pentagon said it would be “inappropriate” and premature to comment on what will happen with the weapons.
“Planning is ongoing, and focused on executing a deliberate and controlled withdrawal of forces while taking all measures possible to ensure our troops’ safety,” said Commander Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesperson.
It is unclear what the Pentagon will ultimately recommend to the White House in the coming days. But the final decision will be made by President Donald Trump, who ordered the withdrawal of about 2,000 US troops from Syria earlier this month.
The move prompted Jim Mattis, the US defence secretary, to resign.
The US officials said Trump’s announcement has upset American commanders, who view his decision as a betrayal to the northern-based Kurdish fighters.
The People’s Protection Units (YPG), which embodies the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has been the backbone of an alliance that has spearheaded the US-backed fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, also known as ISIS) in Syria.
They are perceived as a “terrorist” group by Turkey, which has vowed to launch an operation in Syria targeting areas under the control of YPG fighters. The US told the YPG that they would be armed by Washington until the fight against ISIL was over, one of the officials said.