The terror group YPG has rebranded itself as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to have the necessary legitimacy it needs for a seat at the Syrian negotiation table, a former U.S. commander said in 2018.
The words of former U.S. Special Operations Command commander Raymond Thomas are in focus again as the U.S. administration threatened Turkey this week with economic ruin if “any unforced or unnecessary fighting” is made against the YPG/PKK.
That threat insultingly painted all Kurds with the same broad terror brush.
The SDF brand has been extensively used by the Western governments and media to dissociate YPG with the PKK, which is recognized as a terror outfit by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union.
Thomas explained at the Aspen Security Forum “the most discussed and the most misunderstood” evolution with U.S counterpart in Syria is the so-called SDF. He said the terror group “came about that name because at one point and time I dealt with them directly.”
The group “formally called themselves the YPG, who the Turks would say equated to the PKK,” he said. “You are dealing with a terrorist enemy of mine. How can you do that to an ally?”
He said he was lucky to have Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter [Daesh], Brett McGurk, with him, and they gave the YPG the idea to change their moniker. McGurk, resigned his position shortly after the U.S. President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw troops from Syria in 2018.
The terror group wanted the legitimacy Thomas could not deliver. And, it wanted a seat at the Syrian table in Geneva and later Astana, which would have been impossible with the terror designation being the main force in northern Syria.
“In about a day’s notice they [YPG] declared that they were the Syrian Democratic Forces,” the commander said with a laughter. “I thought it was a stroke of brains to put democracy in there somewhere but it gave them a little bit of credibility.”
“So we paired with them militarily, Brett McGurk was able to keep them in the conversation and allow them the necessary legitimacy to be good partners for us,” he added.
A terror campaign waged by the PKK against Turkey for more than 30 years, resulted in the deaths of nearly 40,000 people.
A 2018 UN report as well as many other independent reports by human rights groups such as the Human Rights Watch confirmed forceful recruitment and the use of children by the YPG/PKK increased nearly five-fold, from 46 to 224, between 2016-2017.