We’re getting very mixed signals from the Trump Administration regarding U.S. policy in Syria.
On Wednesday, July 19, 2017, it was reported that President Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert program of arming and training so-called Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad. As I explained and demonstrated in my post, “President Trump ends Obama administration’s insane policy of arming Syrian jihadists,” those “rebels” include Al Qaeda jihadists.
President Trump’s sensible decision would seem to indicate that the U. S. is withdrawing from the Obama administration’s wrong-headed involvement in the Syrian civil war.
But according to an article published on July 18 by Anadolu Agency, the state-run news agency of the Turkish government, the United States is “speeding up” its military aid to the Kurdish PKK/PYD in northern Syria, which seeks to overthrow the Assad government and which Turkey regards as a terrorist organization.
- PKK = Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a left-wing Kurdish separatist organization based in Turkey and Iraq, which has been in an armed conflict against the Turkish state since 1984.
- PYD = Democratic Union Party, a Kurdish democratic confederalist political party founded in 2003 in northern Syria.
More importantly, the Anadolu report claims that the United States actually has 10 military bases in PKK/PYD-held areas in northern Syria — a level of military involvement in Syria hitherto undisclosed to the American people. The 10 U.S. military bases consist of:
- Two air bases in Harab Isk and Rmeilan.
- Eight “military points” in Ayn Dadad, Ushariya, Sabt, Ayn al-Arab, Ayn Issah, Tal Tamir, Tal Baydar, and Ash Shaddadi.
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The Turkish government regards PKK/PYD as the Syrian offshoot of the terrorist organization PKK, which means that for Ankara, the U.S. is aiding and abetting terrorists. Turkey is a member of NATO. As the Anadolu Agency report puts it:
“According to the Pentagon, the U.S. military aid to several armed groups in Syria, including the PKK/PYD, comprises of 12,000 Kalashnikovs, 6,000 machine guns, 3,500 heavy machine guns, 3,000 RPG-7s, 1,000 American AT-4 or Russian SPG-9 anti-tanks, 235 mortar guns of different calibers, 100 sniper rifles, 450 PV-7 night vision binoculars and 150 binoculars with infrared laser illuminator….
The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S., and the EU, has waged a terror campaign against Turkey [for Kurdish independence] for more than 30 years, during which more than 40,000 people have been killed. It is also involved in illicit drug production, manufacture, and trafficking.
However, the U.S. sees the PKK/PYD, which is part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as an ally in the fight against Daesh.”
- The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is an alliance of 40% Kurdish and 60% Arab militias in the Syrian civil war, aiming to overthrow the secular government of Assad.
- Daesh is the Arabic language acronym for ISIS or the Islamic State.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has opposed the Trump administration’s decision back in early May to arm the PKK/PYD Kurdish militia.
Reacting to the Anadolu report, the Pentagon said it had conveyed its concern to the Turkish government. Major Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway, a Defense Department spokesman, said in an emailed statement:
“While we cannot independently verify the sources that contributed to this story, we would be very concerned if officials from a NATO ally would purposefully endanger our forces by releasing sensitive information. The release of sensitive military information exposes Coalition forces to unnecessary risk and has the potential to disrupt ongoing operations to defeat ISIS.”
Levent Tok, an Anadolu Agency reporter on the story, said the information about U.S. military bases in northern Syria was based on field work by Anadolu’s Syria reporters and information that had been broadcast on social media by Kurdish fighters. Tok said, “The U.S. should have thought about this before it cooperated with a terrorist organization.” (Geopolitica)