YPG not a choice but necessity, US tells Turkey

YPG not a choice but necessity, US tells Turkey

The U.S. military alliance against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) with the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), is “not a choice but a necessity.”

That is what U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis told President Tayyip Erdoğan when Erdoğan expressed Ankara’s unease at the situation during their meeting on Aug. 23 in the Turkish capital, a high-ranking Turkish official told the Hürriyet Daily News, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

They also said Mattis promised that the U.S. would give the serial numbers and locations of all weapons delivered to the YPG in the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), as part of an attempt to sooth Turkish concerns that those weapons would end up in the hands of the PKK for use against Turkey. The SDF is basically a front organized by the U.S. Central Command in order to disassociate itself from the name of the PKK and PKK-affiliated groups. 

According to the source, Mattis offered Erdoğan more assistance in Turkey’s fight against the PKK, on which the security teams of both countries have been commissioned to work.

The Turkish and American sides also reportedly expressed commitment to the principle that once the key Syrian city of Raqqa is liberated from ISIL, or DAESH in an Arabic acronym, the city would be governed by native Arab people - not by the YPG.

“Mattis gave us assurances that the U.S. gave great importance to the NATO alliance binding us together. He stressed that their alliance with the YPG, which he described as ‘temporary,’ was limited to the fight against DAESH,” the source said. 

“We accept that as a word from an ally but we will wait and see whether the promises are delivered. But I can say that apart from the YPG issue, we are pleased to see that we think alike on almost all other security-related issues with the U.S.,” they added.

Those issues include the following:

* Turkey-U.S. cooperation against ISIL will continue. Within the scope of that cooperation, Turkey’s strategic İncirlik Air Base and other designated military bases and facilities will remain open to the activities of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIL

* The territorial integrity of Iraq and Syria must be protected. Turkey and the U.S. are both against the independence referendum announced by Masoud Barzani, the leader of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and scheduled for Sept. 25. Ankara and Washington agree that no Kurdish, Nusayri, ethnic or religious autonomous regions in Syria should be supported.

* As in the case of the YPG and Raqqa, control of the Iraqi city of Tel Afar will not be left to the pro-Iranian Shiite militia of Hashd al-Shaabi once it is cleared from ISIL occupation. It will instead be administered by the Iraqi government, and the same applies for Mosul.

* Turkish troops in Afghanistan will stay and full U.S.-Turkish cooperation in Afghanistan will continue, including use of the Incirlik base.

Turkey’s recent rapprochement with Iran over possible cooperation against the PKK, which came onto the agenda with the recent visit of Iranian Chief of General Staff Mohammad Bagheri, as well as Turkey’s talks with Russia to purchase S-400 air defense systems, were not discussed in the Erdoğan-Mattis meeting, the high-ranking source told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Mattis’ visit to Ankara, which came right after his visit to Baghdad and Arbil, seems to have decreased the tension between Turkey and the U.S. a little, if not completely. That tension has been escalating in recent months because of the YPG problem, which is a result of the wider civil war in Syria.