Former U.S. Ambassador to Damascus Robert Ford has stated in a recent article that the Trump administration is making a mistake by cooperating with the PKK's Syrian offshoot the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing the People's Protection Units (YPG) in the fight against Daesh, indicating that Washington has failed to properly calculate the long-term outcomes of cooperating with the PYD/YPG.
Published in The Atlantic under the title, "The fatal flaw in Trump's Daesh plan," Ford stresses that the upcoming meeting between President Trump and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will largely focus on Washington's assistance to the YPG.
Ford says that by providing military assistance to the PYD/YPG in northern Iraq and Syria despite Turkey's objections, Washington will only complicate the already complex situation in the region.
In the article, Ford states that the PKK terrorist organization defines itself under various names and identities throughout the region, going on to assert that Erdoğan is right to generalize these groups and place them all into one category.
Ford also recalled that the PYD was listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the U.S. in 2004 and enrolled in the Kurdish Communities' Union (KCK) in 2005.
"Yet, the Trump administration (and Obama's before him) keeps contending, as recently as March 8, that the PYD-YPG and PKK are separate entities. But this has no basis in observable fact. And given the organic links between the YPG and the PKK, the PYD-YPG autonomous zone in northeastern Syria will likely provide strategic depth for the PKK's ongoing and future fight against Turkey—something Erdogan knows and fears. There are reports out of Turkey already that Kurdish militants aligned with the PKK and PYD organized and trained in YPG-held northeastern Syria for attacks conducted in Istanbul, Ankara, and Bursa, in 2016.
"The admiration of the U.S. for the PYD/YPG prevents it from realizing some disturbing facts that took place in Raqqa," said Ford, in direct contradiction of the Trump administration which insists on supporting the PKK's Syrian branch despite the policy which says Washington will not work with organizations listed on the list of FTOs.
He also stated that despite its secular appearance, the PYD/YPG is actually not a democratic organization, noting: "It [the PYD/YPG] imposes its political agenda on local communities and has detained many Kurdish activists that do not support them," he added.
"Washington should have learned from the Iraq war that it cannot impose its social and political norms on Middle East societies without creating a counter reaction," Ford stated in his article.
He also emphasized the fact that the U.S. has a certain amount of armed power in the region and has plans to send at least 1,000 more troops in the near future, a plan that Ford says will come with a hefty price tag for the Trump administration.
Turkish authorities designated the PYD the Syrian branch of the KCK in 2009. Ankara argues that Washington is in contradiction of its own policy by arming the YPG, a group known for its organic links to the PKK, which the U.S. recognizes as a terrorist organization, adding that all this is done despite the warnings of NATO-ally Turkey.
The KCK is a supreme body that oversees organizations established by former PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan who formed associations in efforts to increase his influence across the region before being jailed by Turkish authorities. Öcalan stated during an interview with Iraqi television network Zelal in 2013 that "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 under the PKK's orders."
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