The U.S. considers training the People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria a vital step toward stability in the region, despite Turkey's repeated warnings about its connections with the PKK terrorist group.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford said Sunday that in order to bring stability to eastern Syria, the training of 35,000-40,000 local forces should be completed, referring to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a group dominated by the YPG and backed by the U.S. under the pretext of fighting Daesh.
The support remains a source of tension between Washington and its NATO ally Ankara, which has been suffering from the PKK's decades-old deadly terrorist campaign against the state. Although the U.S. recognizes the PKK as a terrorist organization, it denies the group's connection with the YPG despite the ideological and organizational links between the groups.
Speaking at a Washington Post event, Dunford said they could only have completed 20 percent of the training so far. "We are far from reaching stability [in the region] right now. For now, our [U.S.] existence in Syria will continue and the future of this situation will be determined according to the new circumstances," he said.
Meanwhile, Talal Silo, the former SDF spokesperson who surrendered to Turkey last year, claimed that the U.S. is planning to replace the incumbent head of the terrorist organization, Abdullah Öcalan, with the most-wanted PKK terrorist Şahin Cilo, codenamed Ferhat Abdi Şahin, who is strongly supported by Öcalan.
Speaking to the Turkish-language daily Yeni Şafak, Silo said the PPK is planning to move its headquarters to Syria, while the current senior figures, including Murat Karayılan, Cemil Bayık and Duran Kalkan, will also be dismissed.
Earlier in November, the U.S. Department of State's Rewards for Justice Program authorized up to $12 million in rewards for information leading to the identification or location of three senior members of the PKK terrorist group. Up to $5 million was offered for information on the PKK acting leader Murat Karayılan, $4 million for Cemil Bayık and $3 million for Duran Kalkan.
Karayılan has been the PKK's acting leader ever since the organization's founder and leader, Öcalan, was captured by Turkish security forces in 1999.
As a founding member and senior leader of the PKK, Bayık is also among the members of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella group covering the PKK and its offshoots in the neighboring countries of Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. Bayık is the main suspect in the car bomb attack that killed 35 people in Ankara's central Kızılay Square in March 2016.