PKK, sorry YPG, is part of Syrian Democratic Forces: US commander
WASHINGTONA top U.S. commander has said the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is an element of the coalition fighting Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), only to correct his remarks later.
During a news conference via video conference from Baghdad on May 3, the U.S.-led anti-ISIL coalition’s spokesman, Col. John Dorrian, was asked about Turkey’s stance against Syrian Kurdish groups in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
“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.
The spokesman corrected his wording when alerted by a journalist, saying that he initially meant the YPG, instead of the PKK.
The formation of the SDF nearly two years ago saw the U.S. develop a cooperation with the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the YPG, whose fighters are included in SDF ranks.
Turkey has repeatedly asked the U.S. and Russia to cut their ties with the YPG, which it says is an offshoot of the PKK. Turkey considers the YPG as a terrorist group and the Turkish military has on various occasions hit YPG positions inside Syria.
The U.S. and the EU consider the PKK a terrorist group, but not the YPG.
The Pentagon said last week that U.S. forces were operating “in close proximity with” SDF fighters in northern Syria, including near the Turkish border.
Officials in Turkey and Syria, who spoke to Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity, said the PYD and YPG make up the upper echelons of the SDF and the bulk of its fighting force.
Dorian also said a council of local members who live in and around Raqqa would rule the city after it is cleared of ISIL.
The “Raqqa Council” will establish essential services for residents, Dorrian said, adding he was not sure if the SDF would be associated with the council.
“At this point, the Raqqa Council – essentially, the formation of the group, is about what’s been accomplished,” he said. “So as far as who’s involved and what their actions are, I don’t have a lot of detail.”
There are approximately 3,000 to 4,000 ISIL fighters in Raqqa, including foreign fighters and various leadership figures, and around 50,000 SDF members in the region, according to Dorrian.
The U.S. and its coalition partners began attacks in late 2014 against ISIL.