US-PKK/YPG relations according to official US documents

US-PKK/YPG relations according to official US documents

For decades, there has been talk in Türkiye about US support for PKK. Since 2015, this support has become quite clear especially due to the developments in the north of Syria. Although the US already recognizes the PKK as a terrorist organization, it does not feel any need to hide this support. Rather, the US policy is to argue that Türkiye-based PKK and Syria-based YPG (SDF -Syrian Democratic Forces, as the US calls it) are not the one and same organization. But Türkiye argues the opposite. But Türkiye claims the opposite.

In this dossier, we present a compilation of official US documents on the connection between PKK and YPG/SDF and the arms and training support provided by the US.

1) US defense chief admits PYD YPG – PKK connection (28.04.2016)

One of the long-standing sources of dispute between the US and Türkiye is whether there is a link between the Türkiye-based PKK and the Syria-based PYD/YPG.

The US secretary of defense Ashton Carter admitted that PYD and YPG are linked to the PKK during testimony before a Senate panel.

2) YPG: Partner Forces

In US official documents, the YPG is called “partner force”. Congressional reports summarize the US support for the SDF and the YPG as follows: U.S. troops based in Syria support counter-IS operations by local partner forces; U.S. forces continue to train, equip and advise partner forces, where the SDF “remained fully dependent on the Coalition’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities.”

The DoD mission in Syria remains the enduring defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The Coalition continues to pursue the defeat-ISIS (D-ISIS) mission by, with, and through vetted Syrian groups and individuals (VSGI), including the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and its affiliated groups in northeast Syria as well as the Maghawir al-Thawra (MaT) in southeast Syria. These groups remain committed partners eligible for assistance through Counter ISIS Train and Equip Fund (CTEF).

COUNTER-ISLAMIC STATE OF IRAQ AND SYRIA (ISIS) TRAIN AND EQUIP FUND (CTEF), Department of Defense Budget for FY 2023, Office of the Secretary of Defense

3) US Special Forces commander attends YPG’s ceremony (20.11.2022)

US Special Forces Commander Jeff Dennis attended the so-called graduation ceremony of YPG and made a speech. Speaking in Kurdish at the ceremony, the US commander congratulated the terrorists.

“Good morning guys, I’m glad you gave me the opportunity to speak today. My name is Jeff Dennis, I’m the US special forces commander in Himo. We are proud of your success. You went through a tough training to reach this level. I congratulate you and wish you success.“

Besides, in the published images, it was noticed that the terrorists were equipped with full equipment by the US.

4) Condolences from CENTCOM to YPG after Türkiyes operation (24.06.2022)

In June 2022, the US CENTCOM, the military headquarters responsible for Middle East and North Africa, expressed its official condolences to the YPG.

5) Revenue from oil fields supports YPG  (12.10.2019)

US defense official Jonathan Rath Hoffman stated during a news conference at Pentagon that “Revenue from oil fields in Syria supports the Syrian Democratic Forces”. “US efforts to secure oil fields in Syria serve to provide Kurds in the area and the SDF with the funding they need to keep pressure on ISIS” he said.

Possibly to give an idea of the SDF’s revenue from this, in the same statement of US Department of Defense is also declared that “According to Navy Rear Adm. William D. Byrne Jr., the vice director of the Joint Staff, ISIS was in control of the oil infrastructure in Syria in 2015 and was producing 45,000 barrels a day — worth about $1.5 million.”

6) YPG in the cover photo of US Department of Defenses report

“The SDF conduct an operation to clear suspected ISIS facilitators in the al-Hol displaced persons camp (SDF-press.com photo).”

7) $155 million to partner forcesin the administrations fiscal year 2022

“As in Iraq, CJTF-OIR provided critical materials through the Department oıf Defense Counter-ISIS Train and Equip Fund (CTEF) to enable partner forces to achieve the enduring defeat ISIS.  CTEF is the primary fiscal authority for providing material and other defeat-ISIS support to vetted Syrian partner forces. Of the $500 million CTEF appropriation for FY 2022, $155 million is designated to support partner forces in Syria. During the quarter, CJTF-OIR used the CTEF to provide $19.2 million in materiel and support to the SDF, bringing the total FY 2022 CTEF support delivered to Syrian partner forces to $122.7 million as of the end of the quarter.”

Lead Inspector General (Lead IG) quarterly report on Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) to the US Congress (JULY 1, 2022–SEPTEMBER 30, 2022)

Şafak Erdem

Şafak Erdem was born in Istanbul in 1993. He completed primary and secondary school in Istanbul, then studied philosophy and sociology as an undergraduate at Boğaziçi University. He is currently doing a master's degree in philosophy.

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May 2024