U.S. Defense Secretary James N. Mattis left Washington Friday on a five-day trip to reaffirm the enduring U.S. commitment to partnerships in the Middle East, West Africa and South Asia, Defense Department officials said.
Mattis will begin his engagements with a visit to Egypt Saturday, where he met with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Defense Minister General Sedki Sobhi.
He then traveled to Jordan, where, on December 3, he participated in the Aqaba Process, a meeting on countering violent extremism in West Africa, hosted by Jordan’s King Abdullah II. Attendees also included officials from France, the U.K., and several Western African nations, as well as representatives from the African Union, the European Union, NATO and the U.N.
The Defense Secretary will then travel to Pakistan, December 4, where he is planning to meet with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Bajwa. He will conclude his trip with a visit to Kuwait on December 5, where he will meet with Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah and other Kuwaiti leaders.
Meanwhile, Mattis said on Friday that as offensive operations against ISIS in Syria entered their final stages, and expected the focus to move towards holding territory instead of arming Syrian Kurdish fighters.
Speaking with reporters on a military plane en route to Cairo, Mattis did not say if there had already been a halt to weapons transfers.
US President Donald Trump informed Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in a call last month that Washington was adjusting military support to partners on the ground in Syria.
The Syrian Kurdish YPG spearheads the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias fighting Islamic State with the help of a US-led coalition.
Turkey’s presidency had previously reported that the United States would not supply weapons to Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria.