President Donald Trump has approved a Pentagon plan to begin arming a Kurdish militia fighting to liberate northern Syria from the Islamic State. The move just might raise some eyebrows among his conservative supporters — because the militia in question is a Marxist revolutionary army.
According to NBC News, Trump's Defense Department decided on arming the far-left Syrian Democratic Force. The SDF's fighting wing is largely made up by the People's Protection Units, known by the Kurdish initials YPG. Courtesy of the U.S. government, YPG and its allied forces will soon begin receiving aid that could include engineering equipment, communication gear, modern weaponry, ammunition and body armor.
Kurdish forces in Syria are widely acknowledged to be one of the most organized and effective forces opposing radical Islamic groups throughout the country.
"Yesterday, the president authorized the Department of Defense to equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces as necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIS in Raqqa, Syria," chief Pentagon spokeswoman Dana W. White said, according to the New York Times. "The SDF, partnered with enabling support from U.S. and coalition forces, are the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future."
The SDF fights for the independence of an area of northern Syria dubbed Rojava, and is brimming with leftists, communists and anarchists whose ultimate aim is a Rojavan direct democracy. Its fighting forces have famously drawn a small but dedicated cohort of foreign volunteers like famous Weird Twitter user PissPigGranddad (real name: Brace Belden).
It also proclaims a feminist and egalitarian ideology, allocating a set number of its elected assemblies' seats to women and minorities as well as fielding female combat brigades.
The biggest obstacle which Trump overcame in his decision to fund these Kurdish fighters is opposition from Turkey, a U.S. and NATO ally. Turkey has faced a decades-long insurgency from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, which is known by its Kurdish initials PKK. While the SDF and PKK have some links, Turkey's government treats them as one and the same.
While the YPG has attracted international leftist support, it has also come in from criticism from some Western leftists. In the Nation earlier this year, Roy Gutman reported that some defectors accuse the YPG of ruling with an iron fist and forcibly conscripting locals. But those concerns didn't stop Trump from lending aid to the group, either.