“So let’s call it like it is – the YPG and the PKK for all essential purposes were one and the same.” Without a doubt, these words, written by a former senior CIA official, serve as a confession by Washington and verify Turkey’s long-standing arguments in opposition to its NATO ally U.S.’ partnership with the YPG terror group in northern Syria.
In an opinion piece published on the Just Security website on Monday, former CIA official Marc Polymeropoulos explained the reasons for Washington’s decision to primarily partner with the terrorist group in Syria and the later decision to withdraw its troops from the region despite the YPG’s opposition.
Questioning the tension between Turkey and the U.S. over the latter’s closed relationship with the Syrian wing of the PKK terrorist group, the YPG, the author admitted that American officials have known all along that both groups are essentially the same.
“First and foremost, our Syrian Kurdish partners – the Syrian Democratic Front (SDF) – largely consisted of members of the People’s Protection Units, or the YPG. As the Turkish government claimed, and many in the U.S. national security community fully grasped as well, the YPG was simply a rebrand of the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), a longtime terrorist group that has killed thousands of innocent Turks, and indeed Americans, in its decades-long struggle against the Turkish state, a NATO ally of the United States,” Polymeropolous wrote, confirming all the arguments Turkey has defended for a long time.
The U.S. has primarily partnered with the YPG in northeastern Syria in the anti-Daesh fight. On the other hand, Turkey strongly opposed the YPG's presence in northern Syria, which has been a major sticking point in strained Turkey-U.S. relations. 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.
Under the pretext of fighting Daesh, the U.S. has provided military training and given truckloads of military support to the YPG, despite its NATO ally's security concerns. While underlining that one cannot support one terrorist group in the fight against another, Turkey conducted its own counterterrorism operations, over the course of which it has managed to remove a significant number of terrorists from the region.
The former CIA official also said that war sometimes causes countries to make "strange" decisions to reach their major aims for the sake of some other interests or principles.
“War makes strange bedfellows, and as such a conscious and deliberate decision was reached by the U.S. government to partner with the YPG (i.e., the PKK) in the counter-ISIS (Daesh) fight. Make no mistake, the United States knowingly and deliberately threw in our lot with one arm of a terrorist group, albeit a more palatable one, to fight another who was far more deadly and a direct threat to the United States, including U.S. territory,” he explained.
In this case, the U.S. preferred to side with a designated terror group against another one by sacrificing its relationships with a long-time NATO ally and strategic partner.
Saying that even American diplomats once felt threatened by PKK terrorists, Polymeropoulos emphasized that both groups are the same. "In fact, colleagues of mine who have served at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara over the years remember all too well the danger they faced from the PKK. So let's call it like it is – the YPG and the PKK for all essential purposes were one and the same," he said.
Polymeropolous’ article also touched upon the role of Ferhat Abdi Şahin, codenamed Mazloum Kobani, in strained relations.
Despite the YPG’s terrorist commander Şahin being a most-wanted terrorist by Turkey, with a Red Notice warrant out by Interpol, he was invited by White House officials to Washington.
“The Turks viewed YPG senior leader Mazloum Kobani Abdi (Ferhat Abdi Şahin) – the U.S. military's most public YPG interlocutor – as a hardened terrorist. They charged that he previously had been a senior leader for urban operations in Turkey – that is a dry term for Mazloum's role in killing scores of Turkish civilians in southeastern Turkey." What Polymeropolous wrote about Şahin clearly reveals that Washington was aware of the terrorist leader’s criminal background, however, they preferred to ignore it and kept their continual communication alive.
Finally, the former CIA official also touched upon U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw troops from Syria, saying that his move was "rash, immoral yet inevitable."
"It is important to understand this policy paradox the U.S. government faced when President Trump made his rash, immoral, yet fundamentally inevitable decision to disengage with the YPG and ultimately side with Turkey," he concluded, underlining the historic grievances held by Turkey against a U.S.-designated terrorist group that had killed thousands of Turks.
On Aug. 7, Turkish and U.S. military officials agreed to set up a safe zone and develop a peace corridor running from the Euphrates to the Iraqi border to facilitate the return of displaced Syrians, currently living in Turkey, to their home country and provide security for the Turkish border settlements and military outposts. They also agreed to establish a joint operations center. The agreement envisaged the setting up of measures necessary to address Turkey's security concerns, including clearing the zone of the PKK and YPG.
However, the process was sluggish and Washington kept stalling on its promises, despite Turkey’s constant warnings. Turkey has long decried the threat from terrorists east of the Euphrates in northern Syria, pledging military action to prevent the formation of a "terrorist corridor" there. Yet, when the given promises were not upheld, Turkey started its own unilateral plan to end terrorism in the region.
Turkey on Oct. 9 launched Operation Peace Spring to eliminate YPG terrorists from the area east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria in order to secure Turkey's borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria's territorial integrity.
While Turkey was preparing to launch its operation, the U.S. President Trump announced his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the region, leaving YPG terrorists without their powerful backer, despite objections from the terrorist group.
As part of two separate deals with the U.S. and Russia, Turkey paused the operation to allow the withdrawal of YPG terrorists from the planned northern Syria safe zone.
The PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU, has waged a terror campaign against Turkey for more than 30 years and has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women and children. The YPG is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terror group.
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