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US to focus on 'priorities' in Kurdish-populated northeast Syria: Officials

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The picture taken on May 8, 2018 shows vehicles of the US-led coalition forces in Manbij, Syria.

Informed US officials say the administration of President Donald Trump will step up its activities in the Kurdish-populated northeastern Syria, reinforcing fears of the Arab country's partition and mounting tensions with Turkey.

The unidentified officials said on Friday that the US government had decided to shift its focus from terrorist-held northwestern Syria to the Kurdish-inhabited northeast.

CBS News quoted the officials as saying that the decision was made over the last few weeks following Trump's call for a review of all US operations in Syria.

Tens of millions of dollars will be cut from previous US programs, including projects for "countering violent extremism, supporting independent society and independent media, strengthening education, and advocating for community policing," CBS reported.

A State Department official told Reuters, "US assistance for programs in northwest Syria are being freed up to provide potential increased support for priorities in northeast Syria."

A second source also noted that Washington wanted to move the assistance to the areas in Syria where the US had more control.

US officials, however, claimed that "humanitarian assistance" would not be affected in northwestern Syria around Idlib Province, the last major stronghold for Takfiri militants in the country.

Washington has stepped up its alliance with Kurdish forces active in Syria despite opposition by Turkey that is worried about the formation of an autonomous Kurdish state on its borders.

About 2,000 US troops are deployed in northeast Syria in territories under the control of Kurdish militants. Both Moscow and Damascus have repeatedly warned that the illegal US presence in Syria is meant to disintegrate the country.

Last December, Trump approved providing weapons worth $393 million to what Washington calls partners in Syria, including the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). 

The following month, the US announced plans to create a 30,000-strong force comprised of Kurdish militants, which would be deployed along the Turkish border. 

The US measures infuriated Ankara and led it to launch a military campaign against Kurdish forces in Syria.

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