Ilhan Tanir
Jan 19 2018

United States denies deploying YPG troops to Tal Abyad

The United States did not help to transport People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces to Tal Abyad, a Kurdish-held Syrian town on the Turkish border, a U.S. Major told Ahval.

The Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Friday that “nearly 1,000 PYD/PKK terrorists” were deployed in the town after two days of “stepped-up” U.S. reconnaissance, and with the aid of “columns of U.S. armoured vehicles”.

“We do not command or control PYD/YPG forces. We did not transport 1,000 PYD/YPD forces to Tal Abyad,” Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway of the U.S. Marine Corps wrote to Ahval in an email.

The YPG, and the closely-aligned, predominantly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), are in control of large territories along the Syrian-Turkish border east of the Euphrates river and north of Aleppo. Turkey considers these armed Kurdish forces in Syria as an extension of the terrorist-designated Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

Turkish unease with the Kurdish forces on its doorstep exploded into preparations for a military operation against the Kurdish-held town of Afrin, north of Aleppo, after news of a 30,000-strong U.S.-backed border force including YPG and SDF fighters was published last Sunday.

“We recognise Turkey’s security concerns about the PKK, a US-designated foreign terrorist organization. The US does not provide any support to PKK,” wrote Rankine-Galloway.

Several U.S. officials including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson echoed these sentiments throughout the week, attempting to deescalate a Turkish incursion into Syria that could “undermine the fight against ISIS, spark a regional clash, and throw diplomatic relations with NATO ally into chaos”, as CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr tweeted.

Rankine-Galloway emphasised the need to avoid escalation and focus on the fight against the extremist jihadist Islamic State.

We encourage all parties to avoid escalation and to focus on the most important task of defeating ISIS. While the Coalition has significantly degraded ISIS, there is still much work to do in liberating ISIS-held areas and stabilizing recently liberated areas so that we can prevent ISIS from returning.

The SDF are an “indispensable partner” in this battle, wrote Rankine-Galloway, adding that United States coordinates closely with Turkey about its support for the group at many levels, “from senior government officials operational commanders on the ground in Syria.”