US defense chief admits links among PYD, YPG, PKK
WASHINGTON – Anadolu Agency
The U.S. defense chief admitted on April 28 that the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its militia force, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), were linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
During testimony before a Senate panel, Ashton Carter said “yes” when asked by Sen. Lindsey Graham whether the PYD and YPG were aligned with the PKK.
Admitting the link between the PKK and PYD, Carter acknowledged that the PKK is a designated terror group by the United States and Turkey but denied Ankara is upset by U.S. air and equipment support to the militant group’s offshoot in Syria.
“It is not at all,” Carter said. “We have extensive consultations with the Turks.”
But Graham contradicted him saying he was recently in Turkey and that the government there was not happy with U.S. support for “a terror group.”
“They think this is the dumbest idea in the world and I agree with them,” Graham said.
Turkey has been asked by the U.S. to do more against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Graham said, while adding that he did not believe Ankara’s arguments were “absurd.”
“We are arming people inside of Syria who are aligned with a terrorist group: That is the finding of the Turkish government,” he said.
Meanwhile, U.S. Department of State spokesperson John Kirby commented on Carter’s remarks, saying the U.S. stance on the PKK and PYD had not changed.
“I didn’t see Secretary Carter’s comments. I’d let them – let him speak for his views and the Pentagon views. Nothing’s changed about our take here. The PKK is a foreign terrorist organization. That hasn’t changed. And as I’ve said before, those Kurdish fighters who are effective against Daesh in Syria – while we’re not providing direct arms, which as I – once again, I think your question sort of implied that. That’s not – that’s not what’s happening,” Kirby said at a daily press briefing on April 28.
“The YPG’s not a designated foreign terrorist organization. The PKK is. Nothing’s changed about that,” Kirby added.
NATO member Turkey is part of the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIL militants in Syria, but it sees advances by autonomy-seeking Kurds, led by the PYD, as a threat to its own national security, fearing their moves could stoke separatism among Turkish Kurds.