The officials weren't authorized to publicly discuss the matter and demanded anonymity. They described no firm timeline, with the American intention to provide the new weapons to the Syrian Kurds as soon as possible. A congressional aide said officials informed relevant members of Congress of the decision on Monday evening.
The Obama administration had been leaning toward arming the Syrian Kurds but struggled with how that could be done without torpedoing relations with Turkey, which is a U.S. ally in NATO and a key political actor in the greater Middle East. The issue has come to a head now because battlefield progress this year has put the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces nearly in position to attack ISIS in Raqqa, although they are still attempting to isolate the city.
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, said he is not worried about how Turkey will react.
"No. Sorry," Corker said, adding that Washington is going to "have a little bit of a rub with Turkey for a period of time."
Even with the extra U.S. weaponry, the Kurds and their Syrian Arab partners are expected to face a difficult and perhaps lengthy fight for control of Raqqa, which has been key to the extremists' state-building project.
Senior U.S. officials including Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have met repeatedly with Turkish officials to try to work out an arrangement for the Raqqa assault that would be acceptable to Ankara. The Turks have insisted that the Syrian Kurds be excluded from that operation, but U.S. officials insisted there was no real alternative.
In her statement, White said the U.S. prioritizes its support for the Arab elements of the SDF.
"We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey," she said. "We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the U.S. is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally."
Other officials said Trump's authorization includes safeguards intended to reassure the Turks that the additional U.S. weaponry and equipment will not be used by the Kurds in Turkey. The intent is to restrict the distribution and use of the weaponry by permitting its use for specific battlefield missions and then requiring the Kurds to return it to U.S. control.
US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, right, shakes hands with Danish Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen, during a May 9, 2017, press conference, in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Photo Credit: Stine Tidsvilde/Ritzau Foto via AP
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to visit President Donald Trump in Washington next week. An Erdogan adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, met on Tuesday with Thomas Shannon, the State Department No. 2 official.
And in Denmark earlier Tuesday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the U.S. and Turkey are working out their differences.
"That's not to say we all walk into the room with exactly the same appreciation of the problem or the path forward," Mattis told reporters after meeting with officials from more than a dozen nations also fighting IS. Basat Ozturk, a senior Turkish defense official, participated.
"We're going to sort it out," Mattis said.
Baldor reported from Copenhagen and from Vilnius, Lithuania. Associated Press writers Richard Lardner and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.