ADDS COMMENTS BY CENTCOM COMMANDER
By Kasim Ileri
WASHINGTON (AA) – In a stunning reversal Friday, the Pentagon said it was "unauthorized" and "inappropriate” for U.S. Special Forces to wear YPG patches on their uniforms.
“Corrective action taken, and we have communicated as much to our military partners and military allies in the region,” anti-Daesh coalition spokesman Col. Steve Warren said during a videoconference from Baghdad.
Warren’s comments come after Turkey’s foreign minister’s expressed outrage at pictures that showed American Special Forces wearing the YPG militia's insignia and patches that the Defense Department characterized it as a common practice.
A Pentagon spokesman on Thursday tried to downplay the incident saying U.S. troops wore patches to blend into the community in which they fight.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu offered a strong rebuttal. "Wearing an insignia of a terrorist organization by U.S. soldiers, who are our ally and are assertive about fighting against terrorism, is unacceptable," he said.
"Our suggestion to them is that they should also wear Daesh, al-Nusra and Al-Qaeda insignias during their operations in other regions of Syria. They can also wear the Boko Haram insignia when they go to Africa," he added.
Warren said commanders ordered troops to remove the patches.
According to Warren, U.S. Special Forces have worn local militia patches in Afghanistan and Iraq in the past but the political sensitivity related to the YPG made the practice inappropriate.
“The sensitivities, in fact, are with a NATO ally,” Warren said. “It's also important to understand the larger strategic context, which -- and I think that's the inappropriateness of it -- is that they didn't understand that or appreciate it as they should have.”
Turkey has called on the U.S. to not support the PYD and its military wing, the YPG, as they are offshoots of the PKK that is designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey, EU and the U.S.
Warren insisted that the task of U.S. forces is to give support to the Syrian Democratic Forces with particular focus on the Arab component of that alliance that is predominantly made up of Kurdish YPG forces.
To date, the pictures that have surfaced on the Internet show American forces with YPG rather than Arabs.
Warren said there has been just one instance in which the Pentagon can confirm that American troops were pictured with the YPG, noting that even in that case it was difficult to tell exactly who were pictured with U.S. troops.
The leader of U.S. forces in the Middle East released a statement that said the U.S. is working to defeat Daesh and is working with different groups, including the YPG, to achieve that goal.
Gen. Joseph Votel did not comment directly about the YPG patches but said the U.S. would continue to support local groups, including the Syrian Democratic Forces.
“At the same time, we are enormously grateful for the tremendous support provided by our Coalition partners, especially the Turks,” the Central Command chief said. “They remain integral to the accomplishment of our common objective which is the ultimate defeat of Daesh in Iraq and Syria."