In a meeting hosted at NATO headquarters on Tuesday, Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar asked for the military alliance's assistance in counter-terrorism efforts amid the terrorist threat now engulfing Turkey. Emphasising the need for tangible support in the fight against terrorist groups, Akar spoke about the threat from Daesh, the PKK terrorist organisation and its Syrian offshoot the Democratic Union Party (PYD), currently a U.S. ally on the ground in Syria.
Akar's request for support has been made on sound legal and legitimate grounds. I had previously tried to detail the PKK's efforts to establish the PYD while concealing its obvious intra-links due to conflict of U.S. interests. However, as the Turkish media has suggested in a recent report, Washington previously and formally agreed that the PYD is, in fact, the armed Syrian wing of the PKK; therefore making it a terrorist threat.
According to the report published by Yeni Safak, during meetings and deliberations in Brussels regarding NATO's "Strategic Intelligence" document created in June 2013, the U.S., along with other allies, listed the PYD as a terror threat. The report also indicated that Turkey's special efforts and the evidence provided by Ankara had influenced the alliance in making that designation.
The "Military Committee-160" (MC-160) has been described by sources as being a crucial document that is top-secret and highly confidential, functioning as a short-term operational planning guide for NATO allies.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, a person familiar with NATO's inside dealings told Daily Sabah at the MC-160 had indeed listed the PYD as a terror threat to the alliance in 2013, saying: "The document or the listing may have been updated later on," pointing to the shifting, inconsistent nature of NATO protocol and the U.S.'s stance on the PYD. However, according to NATO's official website, the committee makes decisions based on a consensus, undercutting the possibility that mention of the PYD was later removed from the document.
A second source, a former employee at NATO who worked for a period of time there, said that it is unlikely that the document was altered: "This document functions as a guideline for the NATO Military Committee and the alteration is unlikely. However, we should not forget the fact that such documents are nonbinding in terms of political leadership."
Naturally, I sought NATO's opinion on the issue. A NATO official refused to provide information on MC-160, simply saying, "We don't comment on intelligence-related matters." When I asked if NATO has an official policy on the PYD, whether positive or negative, he said, "NATO is an organisation that does not take a purported stance on such issues."
A senior Turkish diplomat refused to confirm if the document listed the PYD as a terrorist group, citing the fact that it is a top-secret document, saying that NATO is the only authority with clearance to talk about the intelligence issue.
It is no secret that some voices in NATO have expressed views than U.S. leadership on PYD. A 2015 report published by NATO's Center of Excellence Defense Against Terrorism corroborated Turkey's claims that the PYD is a PKK wing.
The article, "Dead Men Tell No Lies: Using Killed-in-Action (KIA) Data to Expose the PKK's Regional Shell Game," written by Andrew Self and Jared Ferris, concludes that data regarding those killed-in-action illustrates a high level of military coordination between the PYD's armed wing the People's Protection Units (YPG) and the PYD across organizational levels, forming a coordinated effort that could not have been achieved without unity of command: "Far from just being a PKK offshoot or affiliate, the PKK's armed wing in Iran, the [Iran-Kurdistan Free Life Party] PJAK and the PYD are part and parcel of the organization," the report noted. Authors also believe that the recent growth of the numbers and capabilities of the YPG gives credence to Turkey's fears that the YPG will likely pose a significant threat to Turkey.
There is no doubt that this report and the MC-160 will be listed among the mounting evidence proving the existing links between the PKK and the PYD, revealing just how pragmatic, shameless and unreliable the U.S. has become under the leadership of President Barack Obama.