PKK part of Syrian Democratic Forces, says US commander in Freudian slip

RAGIP SOYLU @ragipsoylu
WASHINGTON, D.C.
Published 03.05.2017 19:38
Updated 04.05.2017 16:29
PKK part of Syrian Democratic Forces, says US commander in Freudian slip

The PKK terrorist group is part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), led by its Syrian affiliate, the People's Protection Units (YPG), U.S.-led coalition spokesman Col. John Dorrian said in a Freudian slip on Wednesday during a news conference.

In response to a question regarding the Turkish attitude against the YPG, Col. Dorrian acknowledged that the PKK was part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in a rather, controversial slip-up.

"But with regard to the PKK, they are a part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, and the Syrian Arab Coalition is a part of the Syrian Democratic Forces as well. The forces that are isolating Raqqa are now largely made up of Syrian Arabs, but they are a part of the Syrian Democratic Forces," he said, exposing once more the U.S.'s complicated relationship with the PKK terror group's Syrian armed wing, the YPG.

The spokesman later corrected his wording when alerted by a journalist.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU, while Turkey also considers the PKK's Syrian offshoot, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a terror group.

However, the U.S. has called the PYD a key ally in the fight against Daesh in Syria despite Turkey's repeated calls for the country to end its support for the PYD/YPG.

According to security officials in Turkey and Syria, the formation of the SDF, more than a year ago, has also provided the U.S. with an opportunity to deepen its relationship with the PYD/YPG.

The SDF was formed in October 2015 when the PYD/YPG incorporated several fighting groups.

"This is a confession of a reality," said Bora Bayraktar, an academic at the International Relations Department of Istanbul Kültür University, stating that although the CENTCOM seems quite determined to continue its cooperation with the PYD in the region, the Donald Trump administration's Syria policy is still not clear.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has stated numerous times that the former Barack Obama administration did not keep its promises with Turkey over its cooperation against the PKK terrorist organization and called for stronger ties with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Recently, photos and videos circulating on social media indicated that U.S. armored vehicles had visited Syria's Derik last week to attend a funeral for YPG militants, who were killed by Turkish airstrikes.

In one of the photos, U.S. vehicles and flags were seen next to a PKK flag. President Erdoğan called the incidents the remnants of the Obama era, during his return from his two-day official visit to India last week.

Col. Dorrian, against the obvious evidence, denied that U.S. forces were present during this funeral, and instead said they were patrolling the area to monitor cross-border skirmishes. He also said he didn't see the photos and videos of U.S. forces with PKK flags.

The (Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research) SETA Foreign Policy Director Ufuk Ulutaş told Daily Sabah that Obama's Syria policy continues to prevail in the U.S. via CENTCOM due to the fact that Trump still has not made up his mind on his own policy decisions concerning the region.

"I believe that if Turkey offers concrete operation suggestions to the Trump administration in the upcoming Trump-Erdoğan meeting on May 16, Trump would take those suggestions seriously and consider revising the U.S.'s Syria policy. Now, he is trying get familiar with the field," Ulutaş said, indicating that cooperation with the PYD would not bring any benefits to the U.S. in the long run.

No difference between the YPG and PKK

Despite the previous U.S. administration's insistence on recognizing no direct links between the PKK, the YPG and the PYD in Syria, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter confirmed the link between the YPG/PYD and the PKK while testifying before a Senate panel at U.S. Congress in April 2016.

Admitting the link between the PKK and PYD, Carter acknowledged that the PKK is designated a terror group by the U.S., Turkey and the EU, but denied Ankara was upset due to the U.S.'s air and equipment support to the militant group's offshoot in Syria.

In addition, a Tactical Action Report (TAR) prepared by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) confirmed the affiliation between the PKK and the PYD/YPG terror groups.

Turkish authorities labeled the PYD as the (Koma Civakên Kurdistan) KCK's Syrian branch in 2009. Ankara argues that due to the organic organizational links between the YPG and PKK, the U.S. arms support to the YPG eventually gets transferred to the PKK and gets used against Turkey.

The KCK, or the Kurdish Communities Union, is a supreme body that supervises the associated organizations created by the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan while he was looking for new ways to increase his outreach across the region.

"I founded the PYD as I did the PJAK [the PKK's Iranian arm]. We did not use the word 'Kurdistan' in the party's title because we did not want to provoke the Syrian regime. The PYD is connected to the PKK, and acts upon on the PKK's orders," Öcalan had stated in an interview with Iraqi television Zelal in 2013.

Salih Muslim, the current chairman of the PYD, has also implicitly accepted that there were hundreds of PKK militants in the ranks of the YPG.

Even though the U.S. administration has not stopped aiding the PKK's Syrian wing YPG, Ankara seems adamant on eradicating the YPG threat in Syria and Iraq.

Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield on Aug. 24, 2016, declaring that it was exercising its right to self-defense codified under U.N. Charter Article 51.

*Contributed by Şeyma Nazlı Gürbüz from Istanbul

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