By Hakan Copur
WASHINGTON (AA) - U.S. support for the PYD/PKK terrorist group continues to raise tensions in Turkish-American relations, even while remarks from U.S. officials effectively admit what U.S. leaders avoid saying: that the YPG, the armed wing of the terrorist PYD, is the Syrian branch of terrorist group PKK.
The tension -- dating back to the Obama era -- continues as President Donald Trump enters his second year in office.
As the issue of weapons support for the PYD/PKK, which started under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, is one of the main fault lines of bilateral relations, Ankara seems to have lost even more trust in Washington.
While contacts between decision-makers of these two countries are ongoing, the PYD/PKK admissions from some American institutions continue to cast a shadow.
As the U.S. administration, which provides weapons support to the terrorist organization PYD/PKK, takes the incoherent line that as "the PYD and its armed wing YPG are not terrorist groups," several signs from Washington say the opposite.
- Official US intelligence report
Testifying to the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Congress Wednesday, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, the top U.S. intelligence official, made a presentation on terrorism and threat perceptions.
The Syria chapter of his official "Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community " presented by Coats explicitly defined the YPG as the terrorist "PKK's militia force in Syria.”
The PKK is recognized as a terrorist group by the U.S., EU, and Turkey, and has taken some 40,000 lives in its 30-year terrorist campaign against Turkey
- ‘PKK militia in Syria’
The relevant section of the intelligence report says: “The Kurdish People’s Protection Unit [YPG]—the Syrian militia of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)—probably will seek some form of autonomy but will face resistance from Russia, Iran, and Turkey.”
The report, which mentioned that the “YPG is an extension of the PKK in Syria," also stated that the terrorist organization is seeking to establish an autonomous structure in Syria.
- CIA also says YPG is branch of PKK
The CIA also includes the PYD/PKK among the foreign-based terrorist groups in Syria, on its website’s Syria profile section, as updated at the end of January.
The Syria section of the World Factbook on the CIA website lists “Terrorist groups - foreign based” working in the country. In that listing, it says that Salih Muslim Muhammad leads the PYD, the PKK’s “Syrian wing.”
- PKK admission from State Department
Two weeks ago, in a press briefing, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert used the word "PKK" while talking about PYD/PKK elements in Afrin.
- US suggests PYD/PKK rebrand itself
Speaking at the U.S. Aspen Institute in July last year, Gen. Raymond Thomas, the head of U.S. special operations command, admitted that the PKK’s Syrian extension YPG/PYD effectively tried to change its name to so-called "Syrian Democratic Forces" or SDF spurred by his suggestion.
Thomas urged the YPG to rebrand itself to avoid Turkish concerns and give the group a voice in Syria's future.
"They formally called themselves the YPG, who the Turks would say equated the PKK,” he related.
“So, we literally played back to them that you’ve got to change your brand. What do you want to call yourself beside the YPG? With about a day’s notice, they declared that they were the Syrian Democratic Forces."
- Obama's defense minister also admits PYD-PKK links
Testifying to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee in April 2016, President Barack Obama’s defense secretary, Ashton Carter, also admitted a direct relationship between the YPG and the PKK.
Asked by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, "Have you ever heard of the PYD and YPG?" Carter said yes.
When asked by Graham, "Reports indicate that they have connections or at least a significant relation with the [terrorist] PKK, is this true?” Carter also answered “Yes.”
Finally, when Graham asked, "Is it surprising that Turks are angry at us for arming the YPG in Syria?" Carter responded "No," it was not.
- National Counter Terrorism Center: ‘KGK’s Syria branch’
The U.S. National Counter Terror Center (NCTC), which collects and analyzes intelligence about terrorism, also called the PYD the PKK's branch in Syria on its website.
An update to the PKK Kongra-Gel (KGK) section of the center’s website said: The "KGK’s Syrian branch the Democratic Union Party (PYD) increased its presence by controlling Kurdish areas in northern Syria along the border with Turkey, which increased threats against Turkey and raised concern over the increasing tensions along the border.”
After these passages attracted public attention, the relevant sections of the site were removed.
While these PYD/PKK admissions of the U.S. side are on the rise, questions are still being asked about how far the Trump administration will continue to support the terrorist group.