After US Defense Secretary James Mattis announced that American forces will set up observation posts in north-eastern Syria, it seemed as though yet another US betrayal of its Turkish NATO partner was underway in spite of the attempts among both US and Turkish forces to cooperate in the northern Syrian city of Manbij under the so-called roadmap to liberate the town currently occupied by the US backed terror group YPG/PKK. Even before this announcement from Mattis, Turkey had expressed concerns about America’s commitment to joint patrols in Manbij, not least because far from distancing itself from its battlefield terrorist allies in the region, the US is if anything solidifying the reality that its relationship with the YPG/PKK will continue for the foreseeable future.
The worrying reality is that in spite of the fact that Turkey has been a loyal ally of the United States throughout its modern history, Washington continues to forge a battlefield alliance with one of the world’s most notorious terror groups that since the late 1970s has killed 40,000 people in Turkey, many of whom were civilians.
The PKK terror group does not share the kinds of values that ordinary Americans would feel comfortable with. Operating with a mafioso mentality, the group is notorious not only for attacking, murdering and disfiguring policemen, soldiers and civilians but they are also guilty of harassing, pillaging and murdering those of an ethnic Kurdish background they deviously claim to defend. By contrast, one can be of an ethnic Kurdish background and a full Turkish citizen without facing any form of legal prejudice. This contrasts sharply with the rights of African-Americans in the United States prior to 1964 where various southern states enacting so-called Jim Crow laws which deprived black American citizens of their most basic rights.
Like most responsible nations, the United States lists the PKK as a terrorist organisation and yet in Syria, the United States military continues to arm, fund and fight beside the PKK’s Syrian branch – the YPG. Beyond simply being a supreme insult to a long time NATO ally, the short term thinking behind allying with a violent terror group will come back to haunt the US in one form or another as any alliance with terrorism ultimately becomes a pact with the Devil that is not easy to crawl out from under. Already, local Arabs in the north-east of Syria are beginning to rebel against the pseudo-regime of YPG/PKK terrorists that under US supervision have occupied parts of northern Syria, thus turning historic Arab majority regions into a gangsters’ nest of ethnic cleansing that has seen both Arab and non-Kurdish minority populations suffer under the whip hand of ethno-centric terrorist extremists.
Is the United States really so desperate for an ally in Syria that it is willing to retain an always ill-conceived alliance with a group that has committed acts of violence against not only Turkomen but against Muslim Arabs and the Christian minorities of the region? Is the US proud of arming a group that has launched mortars into Turkey from Syrian soil after the US cleared a path for YPG/PKK occupation of some of Syria’s most strategic northern cities and towns?
If the US government is thankful for this, surely the American people ought to be thankful for a dose of reality that might lead them to openly challenge their government’s alliance with YPG/PKK terrorism in the same way that Turkey’s handling of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has led many Americans to question their governments position vis-a-vis Saudi Arabia. For all that Saudi Arabia is, it is still a state. By contrast, the PKK is a terror group according to the American government itself and yet that same American government is fighting with the PKK in Syria.
If Americans learned anything from the horrors of 9/11, it should have been that there is no such thing as an acceptable terrorist group. There are no “good terrorists and bad terrorists”. All terrorists are in fact bad or in the words of George W. Bush “evil doers”. A group that uses remote detonation devices, mortars, violent armed assaults, bondage, extraction, torture, mass murder, ethnic cleansing, blackmail and the sale of narcotics to achieve its vague political aims cannot have a single saving grace. And yet by allying with the YPG/PKK in Syria, the US is effectively saying that the disgusting and criminal methods used by the terror organisation are somehow appropriate or even desirable. This becomes all the more tragic when one realises that the PKK threatens the security of a sovereign state that is not an enemy but a long time partner of the United States.
The war in Syria has been a polarising one for many people across many lands, but just as most level headed people draw a line when it comes to supporting groups like Daesh (aka ISIS), the same red line applies or at least must apply to supporting the PKK in all its forms. This is why news that the US has set up observation posts in north-eastern Syria to ostensibly separate Turkish forces from the YPG/PKK, feels duplicitous than transparent. While the US claims that these observation posts will help American forces to keep the YPG/PKK out of Turkey, the reality is that these observation posts will ensure the survival of a terror group that should be mutually neutralised by both Turkish and American forces in order to ensure long term regional peace not just for Turkey but also for Syria and Iraq.
Now, Turkey’s Defence Minister has explicitly condemned American observation posts in the region. Hulusi Akar has stated that he expressed Turkey’s dissatisfaction over the matter to U.S. Chief of Staff Joseph Dunford when the pair met at the recent Halifax International Security Forum in Canada. According to Akar,
“During our talks with both political and civilian interlocutors we repeatedly expressed our unease in various ways. I think actions [the setting up of observation posts] like this will make the complicated situation in the region even more complicated.
We have stated that the observation points to be established by the U.S. troops on the Syrian border will have a very negative impact […] and in the course of our discussions we expressed that it could lead to a perception that ‘U.S. soldiers are somehow protecting terrorist YPG members and shield them’.
Nobody should doubt that the Turkish Armed forces and the Republic of Turkey will take the necessary steps against all kinds of risks and threats from across its borders.
We expect our U.S. allies to immediately cut their ties with the terrorist YPG, who are not in the slightest bit different from the PKK”.
The Turkish Defence Minister’s statement makes it clear that Turkey beleives that the US position in northern Syria is not only unwise and untenable but that it is a direct threat to Turkey’s fundamental security interests.
Turkey is an invaluable partner as multiple nations ranging from China and Qatar, Russia to Sudan, Pakistan to Malaysia have come to realise. As one of modern Turkey’s long term allies, rather than offer thanks for the stabilising presence of Turkey in an otherwise fraught region, the US government is squandering this alliance on the altar of violent terrorism and squandering good will among the vast majority of Syrian Arabs in the process.
Just as Turkey would never fund anti-US terror groups operating in Mexico, nor should the United States fund an anti-Turkish terror group operating in Syria. If Americans want to express thanks to a steadfast ally in the multi-layered wars against terrorism, the best thing they could do is to publicly express their outrage at their government’s support for a YPG/PKK terror group that does not belong in the 21st century.
And yet by allying with the YPG/PKK, the United States is openly siding with a group operating on Turkey’s borders whose goal is to kill Turkish and other civilians while threatening the wider regional peace. Such a move is not only irresponsible but it is effectively criminal. It would behove both sides to reach a crucial understanding on this matter so that the dire realities on the ground can be rectified at once.