Ex-US general criticizes American support for YPG/PKK
by Daily Sabah with AA
ISTANBULDec 17, 2019 - 6:14 pm GMT+3
by Daily Sabah with AA
Dec 17, 2019 6:14 pm
U.S. support for the YPG/PKK has damaged ties between Washington and Ankara, but the countries continue to depend on each other and must restore confidence through mutual steps, Ben Hodges, a former commander of U.S. troops in Europe, told Anadolu Agency (AA). Hodges said providing military support for the SDF, which has been dominated by the YPG/PKK terrorist group, was not a wise decision on the U.S.' part. "We made a decision for short-term tactical benefit, because this organization, this grouping was more effective against ISIS than anybody else. But that was done at the cost of severe damage to the more important, strategic relationship with Turkey," he said, using a different acronym for the Daesh terror group. Hodges, who served as a commander of the U.S. Army in Europe from 2014 to 2017, underlined that Washington should address their NATO ally Turkey's concerns about the PKK and security threats in the region. "For the U.S., the relationship with Turkey remains more important than it is with a splinter group of a terrorist organization. The YPG is a splinter group of the PKK, and efforts to separate them were not credible," he stressed. The U.S. has provided military training and given truckloads of military support to the YPG, despite its NATO ally's security concerns. Despite claiming numerous times that Daesh has been defeated, the U.S. support of the YPG still continues. The YPG is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terror group, which has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people in Turkey, including women and children, over the past 30 years. Hodges, now a senior expert for Washington-based think tank CEPA, underlined that while many in Washington looked to Syrian Kurds with sympathy due to their role in the fight against Daesh and many recent media comments were emotionally driven. "You hear people talking about 'Kurdish allies,' as if Kurds have a monolithic body," he stressed, pointing out that the SDF, dominated by the terrorist group YPG/PKK, does not represent the majority of Kurdish people in the region. "The Kurds are not allies. When we say ally, that's an emotional but also a legal relationship, with obligations. We have legal obligations to Turkey, as a NATO ally since 1952," he said. Hodges insisted that U.S. support for the SDF, which began under the Barack Obama administration, was only a "transactional relationship," focused on the fight against Daesh, and was not comparable to strategic ties with its NATO ally Turkey. He also argued that the U.S. is not pursuing a policy to create a Kurdish state in northern Syria. "It was never our policy to support a Kurdish enclave along Turkey's southern border in places that were never Kurdish before, although this was likely the principal goal of our YPG proxies, many of whom absolutely are PKK," Hodges said. The retired general, who lived in Turkey's Aegean town of İzmir between 2012 and 2014 and served as the commander of NATO's Allied Land Command, underlined that Turkey remains an essential NATO ally despite recent tension. He criticized comments by U.S. politicians and analysts arguing for suspending Turkey's NATO membership or further increasing military support for the SDF and YPG/PKK groups, amid Ankara's military operation "I am optimistic that enough serious people recognize the importance of this relationship between Turkey and the U.S., as well as Turkey within the alliance. I don't even want to imagine what NATO would be like without Turkey," he stressed. Hodges called for mutual steps to restore trust between the U.S. and Turkey and to overcome differences on a number of issues, including major disagreements over northern Syria and Turkey's purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems. "Turkey believes that the U.S. has something to do with the Gülenist attempted coup, that we were behind it," he said, referring to the 2016 defeated coup by the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). FETÖ has a considerable presence abroad, particularly in the U.S., including private schools that serve as a revenue stream for the terror group. The U.S. is home to a large community of FETÖ members, including group leader Fetullah Gülen. Gülen has lived in self-imposed exile on a secluded compound in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania since 1999. The United States is the target of most extradition requests. Turkey has sent seven extradition requests to Washington for Gülen but has seen little progress in his extradition. "Turkey believes that the U.S. is secretly trying to create a Kurdish state. On the other hand, some in the U.S. believe that Turkey has a secret arrangement with Russia," said Hodges. "These are areas of mistrust which I believe could all be addressed. The leaders at all levels have to come together to reduce that mistrust," he added. Hodges expressed hope that talks between U.S. and Turkish officials would help overcome differences and help Washington and Ankara upgrade their strategic relations. He also suggested that enhancing intelligence sharing would be one of the best ways to rebuild confidence between the two NATO allies.