Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) stand together in Raqqa, Syria, October 16, 2017. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
“The Coalition will continue our partnership with the Syrian Democratic Forces,” the public affairs office of the United States-led anti-ISIS coalition said on Sunday. A day after Turkey said the US would not provide any more weapons to the Syrian Kurdish YPG, the coalition responded that support goes only to the SDF and not separately to the YPG. However that doesn’t appear to represent a change in US policy, the US has said the same thing over the past year.
“The Coalition will continue our partnership with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to complete the lasting defeat of ISIS and stabilize liberated territory. This support includes providing arms, training, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support (ISR) and precision air and ground strike support to the SDF,” the press desk of Combined Joint Task Force, Operation Inherent Resolve, the anti-ISIS coalition, wrote to The Jerusalem Post responding to an inquiry about the Turkish report.
Although the SDF is composed of various units, including Arab fighters and the YPG, the US is careful to explain its relationship is with the larger umbrella group. The Coalition said that it “provides this support to the SDF, and not separately to the YPG.” They also said that “our continued support to the SDF will allow displaced Syrians and refugees to return home and ensure that ISIS does not re-emerge as an insurgency.”
Although the coalition directs any queries about policy changes to the US Department of State, the Pentagon has always said that its support in eastern Syria is directed to the SDF and does not mention the YPG in official statements. In a long June 2017 Pentagon press briefing by coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon he was asked twice about the YPG and responded by discussing the SDF. In another press briefing in late October 2017 Major General James B. Jarrard was also asked about the SDF and connections to Kurdistan Workers Party. “I have seen no connection between the SDF and the PKK, and we have worked very closely with them for over two years,” he responded.
It’s clear the US takes seriously the sensitivity of the issue whereby Turkey accuses the YPG of being linked to the PKK and accused the US of training a “terror army” in Syria. The US carefully avoids mentioning the YPG as much as possible and when it does it says it does not arm it.