Turkish forces recently launched “Operation Olive Branch” into northwestern Syria against the PKK-linked Kurdish militia in Afrin. For months, Turkish officials tried to convey to the U.S. that enlisting one terrorist group to fight another is a risky strategy, especially when the former group seeks the territorial dismemberment of Turkey. The Trump administration, in return, sent mixed messages and failed to fulfill its pledges to a NATO ally’s security.
Turkey has vociferously opposed the U.S. for its continued cooperation with the PKK-affiliated People’s Protection Units (YPG) since the Obama administration. YPG is the armed wing of the Syrian People’s Democratic Party (PYD), which is the Syrian component of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK.) The PKK is an armed terrorist organization, listed as such by the United States.
Though not widely reported in the U.S., dozens of Turkish civilians have been killed in cross border attacks by ISIL and YPG. Turkey, therefore, justifiably perceives the U.S. armament of the PKK’s Syrian militia as a national security threat. While the Trump administration still views the YPG as an effective fighting force against ISIL, it apparently fails to acknowledge Turkey’s decades-long fight against PKK terrorism. The U.S. also has provided no guarantees that the equipment being provided to the YPG will not work its way into the hands of PKK terrorists.
A permanent rupture in the U.S.-Turkey relationship over this issue would be a loss for both sides and a big win for ISIL and America’s other enemies. We urge the U.S. to reconsider its decision on arming the YPG-PKK and recommit to its strategic partnership with Turkey.
G. Lincoln McCurdy
Turkish Coalition of America