U.S. Senator for South Carolina Lindsey Graham has staunchly criticized the Trump administration's decision to cooperate with the PKK-affiliated Democratic Union Party's (PYD) armed wing, the People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, and reminded the Senate how such cooperation harms bilateral ties with Turkey.
He was speaking at a recent U.S. Congress session on "Worldwide Threat Assessment."
During the session of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, Graham questioned the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dan Coats as well as the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. Gen. Vincent R. Stewart over cooperation with the YPG and asked whether they were aware that "cooperation with the YPG harms relations with Turkey." The two intelligence directors both responded by saying "yes."As the DNI, director Coats responded positively to the question "Do you recognize a growing dispute between Turkey and the Kurdish elements within the region, in an intelligence perspective," the South Carolina Senator then asked Coats "Do you think that our policy to supply heavy weaponry to the Kurdish YPG is establishing the grounds for this?"
Though the U.S. insists on cooperating with the PKK-affiliate YPG in Syria, a great cause of concern for Turkey, the DNI Director during the recent session affirmed that they were aware of it and noted, "I believe our policy is contributing to this [increasing dispute between Turkey and YPG in the region]."
Continuing on his implicit but strong criticism of the Trump administration's decision to cooperate with the YPG, Senator Graham also questioned whether it would be better to include more Arab elements and fewer Kurdish elements in the combat against terrorists in the region.
Meanwhile, the Defense Intelligence Agency Director Vincent touched upon the situation in Iraq's town of Mosul and said, "The [independence] referendum to be held in October [by the Kurdish Regional Government] will be determinant [to the situation in the country]."
Due to apparent ties between the PYD/YPG and the PKK, which is considered a terrorist group by both Turkey and the U.S., Turkey has repeatedly voiced its objections against U.S. support of the militant group's Syrian elements. Regardless, the U.S. has not stopped aiding the YPG. Ankara, however, is determined on eradicating the threat in both Syria and Iraq.