US intel report presented to Congress says YPG is ‘PKK’s Syrian militia,’ searching for autonomy
Cansu Çamlıbel -WASHINGTON
An official report prepared by U.S. National Security Director Daniel Coats and presented to the U.S. Congress on Feb. 13 defined the People’s Protection Units (YPG) as the Syrian wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), acknowledging that it is searching for autonomy.
“The Kurdish People’s Protection Units - the Syrian militia of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) - probably will seek some form of autonomy but will face resistance from Russia, Iran, and Turkey,” read the report titled “Worldwide Threat Assessment.”
“Turkey’s counterterrorism cooperation with the United States against ISIS is likely to continue, but thwarting Kurdish regional ambitions will be a foreign policy priority [for Ankara],” the report said, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
It also argued that “Iran is seeking to establish a land corridor from Iran through Syria to Lebanon.”
Turkey has long criticized the U.S. support provided to the YPG in northern Syria, saying it presents a threat to the Turkish national security for a PKK-linked group to gain authority on its southern borders.
On Feb. 13, U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s planned visit to Turkey on Feb. 15-16 “shows just how serious this matter is,” referring to stark differences of opinion on the Syrian issue in Turkey and the U.S.
Pentagon dismisses border force plan
Meanwhile, the U.S. dismissed reports that the Pentagon is seeking $250 million to train and equip the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to build a “border security force” in Syria, amid an angry reaction from Turkey.
“The Department of Defense’s Fiscal Year 2019 request for Counter-[ISIL] Train and Equip Fund includes funding for border security. This funding is intended to enhance the border security of nations adjacent to conflict areas, to include Jordan and Lebanon, to prevent the spread of ISIL,” Pentagon Spokesman Adrian Rankine-Galloway said on Feb. 13.
This funding is not for a new “army” or conventional “border guard” force, according to the Pentagon official.
‘Turkey’s legitimate concerns’
Erdoğan suggested that although initial aid figures are estimated at $550 million, “information obtained by Ankara” indicates that this financial support “could increase to $3 billion.”