BEIRUT: Kurdish fighters are sharing information with the U.S.-led coalition to coordinate strikes against Islamic State militants in the Syrian border town of Kobani, a Kurdish official said Friday.
The admission could further complicate relations between Washington and Turkey, which views the main Syrian Kurdish militia with suspicion because of its links to the Kurdish PKK insurgent group.
“There is direct coordination between Kurdish and American coalition forces,” Nawaf Khalil, spokesman for the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, told The Associated Press. “That’s no secret. It began about a week ago,” he said.
The party’s armed wing, known as the People’s Protection Units or YPG, has been struggling to defend the town—also known as Ayn Arab—against the Islamic State despite dozens of U.S.-led airstrikes against the extremist group.
Khalil said Kurdish fighters provided “correct and credible intelligence” early on, building trust with the U.S.-led coalition. There was no immediate comment from U.S. military officials.
The battle for Kobani has emerged as a key test for the U.S.-led air campaign against the IS group in Syria, with the vast majority of strikes conducted in and around the embattled town.
Turkey has ground forces and tanks stationed just across the border but has declined to intervene. It views the YPG as an extension of the PKK, which waged a long and bloody insurgency in Turkey and is designated a terrorist group by the U.S. and NATO.
Both armed Kurdish groups hope to one day create an independent nation state in the mountainous region straddling Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran.
Khalil’s acknowledgement of coordination came after State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Thursday that U.S. officials had met with members of the Syrian Kurdish party for the first time.
Khalil said the meeting took place last week in Paris, and that it wasn’t the first time the two sides had met. “The contact isn’t new, but the admission of it is,” he said.
He said the party had not publicized the meetings because it did not want to cause more strife between Ankara and Washington.