The Washington Post reports from Ain Issa: In this abandoned desert town on the front line of the war against the Islamic State in Raqqa, local fighters are fired up by announcements in Washington that the militants’ self-proclaimed capital is to be the next focus of the war.
But there is still no sign of the help the United States has delivered ostensibly for the use of the Arab groups fighting the Islamic State, nor is there any indication it will imminently arrive, calling into question whether there can be an offensive to capture Raqqa anytime soon.
Fifty tons of ammunition airdropped by the U.S. military last week and intended for Arab groups has instead been claimed by the overall command of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which is fighting alongside Arab units but overwhelmingly dominates their uneasy alliance, according to Kurdish and Arab commanders.
The question of whether Arab or Kurdish fighters get the weapons is crucial, in part because of Turkish sensitivities surrounding the United States’ burgeoning relationship with the Syrian Kurds. Turkey accuses the YPG of affiliation with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, designated a terrorist organization by Ankara and Washington, and has already lodged a complaint with the U.S. Embassy in Ankara that the YPG received the weapons intended for Arabs.
Just as significant, however, is the recognition that Kurds are unlikely to be able — or perhaps even willing — to fight for the Sunni Arab lands controlled by the Islamic State, including Raqqa, the jewel in the crown of the militants’ self-styled caliphate and a city the Kurds do not aspire to govern. [Continue reading…]