Kurds in Syria will let you down, Turkey warns US

Kurds in Syria will let you down, Turkey warns US

Uğur Ergan – ANKARA
Kurds in Syria will let you down, Turkey warns US

AFP photo

Turkey’s deputy chief of staff has warned a top U.S. commander visiting Turkey that cooperating with the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria is highly dangerous.

“Do not be surprised if the YPG lets you down when the fight against ISIL gets tough,” Deputy Chief of Turkish General Staff Yaşar Güler told General Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command (Centcom), during a two-hour meeting in Ankara on May 23.

According to reports, the top commanders briefly supervised efforts to build up local forces in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), discussing an anticipated operation against ISIL stronghold Raqqa and developments on the “Azaz-Jarablus line,” which Turkey considers a “red line.”

Güler reportedly outlined Turkish efforts in the fight against ISIL, including the opening of the İncirlik Air Base in the southern province of Adana, logistical support and intelligence sharing. However, he also pointed out that the United States falls short in providing Turkey with similar support in pushing ISIL militants from the Azaz-Jarablus line using “moderate” opposition forces rather than the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). 

“An important threat will disappear if you provide support to the moderate opposition rather than the PYD to clear this line of ISIL,” Güler was reported as saying. Turkey considers both the PYD and its militia forces the YPG as off-shoots of the PKK, against which it has been conducting military operations in southeastern provinces for the last few months.

The Turkish general reportedly signaled that Turkey would not permit a takeover of the aforementioned region by the PYD. 

He also underlined that Turkey has no intention of dispatching soldiers into Syrian territory without a decision by the United Nations Security Council. 

Votel arrived in Ankara late on May 22, following his visit to Kobane to meet U.S. military advisers working with Syrian Arab fighters and the leaders of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which includes the YPG and the PYD. 

His visit comes at a time when Ankara has been calling on the U.S. and its Western allies to stop supporting the PYD. Washington has provided air power and small arms ammunition to the militant group, saying the PYD and the YPG are “reliable” partners in the fight against ISIL.

The United States has roughly 200 advisers on the ground in Syria but no combat units. Votel’s visit comes as the first of 250 more U.S. special operations forces are beginning to arrive.

Kurds play a dominant role in the U.S.-backed SDF, providing the core of the forces that have pushed back ISIL in the country’s northeast.

The SDF has a total of around 25,000 Kurdish fighters and around 5,000 Arab fighters, and Washington is pushing to bring more Arab forces into the group.