President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized the U.S. Tuesday for its ongoing support for the PKK-affiliated People's Protection Units (YPG), pointing to the fact that the terrorist group has been releasing imprisoned Daesh terrorists it is supposed to be fighting against, according to the NATO ally.
"Significant intelligence was gathered from the close relatives of (Abu Bakr) al-Baghdadi who have been captured. The YPG has released thousands of Daesh members held in Syria's prisons as a means of blackmail," the president said during a speech in Parliament for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), indicating that it is obvious that some circles in the U.S. are trying to support separatist terrorist groups in Syria.
The YPG continues to have a mixed relationship with Daesh, with ties between the groups fluctuating from open hostility to cooperation. Reports stating that Daesh terrorists are being released from YPG prisons and camps have been circulating in the media for a while. The latest of these release reports came on Sunday as the Turkish Defense Ministry claimed that the terrorist group had released over 800 Daesh prisoners in Tal Abyad, Syria.
"Turkey is the only member of NATO and the Coalition (against Daesh) to fight hand-to-hand and neutralize over 4,000 members of Daesh in Iraq and Syria," the Defense Ministry said on Twitter. "But the YPG has released over 800 Daesh members from the Tal Abyad prison," it added.
The overall number of Daesh terrorists released by the YPG is said to be close to 750. Of these, 265 have surrendered and are now under the control of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).
Ankara has long objected to the U.S.' support for the YPG, a group that poses a threat to Turkey and terrorizes local people, destroying their homes and forcing them to flee. The YPG is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK, which has killed 40,000 people, including women and children, in its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey. Under the pretext of fighting Daesh, the U.S. has supported the YPG terrorist group by providing military training and weapons and has recently reiterated its ongoing support. While underlining that one cannot support a terrorist group in the fight against another, Turkey has continued its own counterterrorism operation, over the course of which it has managed to remove a significant numbers of terrorists from the region.
"Through Operation Euphrates Shield alone, we have eliminated over 3,000 Daesh members. This number increases to 4,000 if we include other operations," Erdoğan said. Turkey, as a country that has lost hundreds of lives due to Daesh, has been fighting the group intensively since its emergence.
"Those trying to present a separatist terror group as a force against Daesh now try to hide that group's civilian massacres," the president said. He added that some try to depict Turkey's fight against terrorism as though it were a war against Kurds, warning the West once again to make clear the distinction between terrorist organizations linked to the PKK and the Kurds as an ethnic group.
The YPG is known to have turned Syrian lives to misery, burning down houses, conducting arbitrary arrests, using schools and hospitals for terrorism activities and recruiting children.
It has been often reported that the YPG terrorist group has been forcibly recruiting children between the ages of 11 and 16, separating minors from their families to fight illegally in the north of Syria and Iraq. Turkey and various international organizations including the U.N. have documented and warned of the YPG's oppressive measures.
The terrorist group has also exerted exasperating levels of oppression on locals, especially dissident Kurds, preventing them from continuing their way of life and fulfilling religious practices.
Stating that the YPG had conducted an ideological cleansing of areas of Syria under its control, Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu stated recently that "The assets of Kurds who did not adopt its (YPG's) ideology were forcefully taken, these people were deported and around 15 Kurdish parties were shut down."
Nevertheless, the U.S. continues its support of the terror group and one of its leaders, Ferhat Abdi Şahin, also known by his nom-de-guerre Mazloum Kobani – despite U.S. President Donald Trump having been shown evidence of the group's crimes and Şahin's having a Red Notice on Interpol. Şahin has caused the deaths of hundreds of Turkish people and is the adopted son of Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the PKK terrorist organization.
"We do not just keep terrorist organizations away from us but also destroy them at the source. We are struggling against all terrorist organizations that pose a threat to our country and the world, including Daesh, al-Qaida and the YPG," Erdoğan said Monday.
"Unfortunately, we are aware that the U.S.'s engagement with the terrorist organization in Syria will not end in an instant," Erdoğan said, stressing that Turkey's struggle would continue until the last terrorist was eliminated – particularly in Syria and northern Iraq.
Since 2016, Turkey has carried out three major military operations in northern Syria – Euphrates Shield, Olive Branch and Peace Spring – with the aim of purging the region of terrorist groups.
S-400 issue, another question of debate in bilateral relations
Erdoğan also expressed during his speech that the U.S. president had acknowledged Turkey's position regarding the S-400 missile defense system after he explained the circumstances.
"I told Mr. Trump how Turkey was pushed into buying the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, and he acknowledged our position," Erdoğan said.
The president said that he told his U.S. counterpart that Ankara would seek alternatives if the U.S. did not adopt a compromising stance regarding the F-35s, reiterating once again that Turkey would not give up the S-400s.
Turkey decided in 2017 to purchase the S-400 system following protracted efforts to purchase air defense systems from the U.S. with no success. U.S. officials responded by attempting to pressure Turkey to buy the Patriot missile system rather than Moscow's S-400 system, arguing it would be incompatible with NATO systems.
Turkey has responded that it was the U.S.' refusal to sell it the Patriots that led the country to seek other sellers, adding that Russia offered a better deal, including technology transfers.