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US General Told Syria’s Kurds to “Change Brand”
International

US General Told Syria’s Kurds to “Change Brand”

One of America’s most senior generals said on Friday he instructed the Kurdish YPG militia to change its “brand” a day or so before it unveiled an alliance with Syrian Arabs in 2015 under the name Syrian Democratic Forces.

The recounting by US Army General Raymond Thomas, the head of Special Operations Command, offered a glimpse into the mechanics that preceded a major ramp up in US support to the Kurdish fighters despite fierce opposition from NATO ally Turkey, Reuters reported.

Turkey views the YPG as an extension of PKK militants waging an insurgency on Turkish soil, and has sharply criticized US support to the group, which has increased over time.

Thomas said he made the Turkish concerns known to the YPG back in 2015.

“We literally played back to them: ‘You have got to change your brand. What do you want to call yourselves besides the YPG?’ With about a day’s notice they declared that they are the Syrian Democratic Forces.”

“I thought it was a stroke of brilliance to put democracy in there somewhere. But it gave them a little bit of credibility.”

Thomas was speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, an annual conference bringing together government and military national security leaders and experts.

Thomas then described the evolution of the group, which suffered heavy losses in early battles against Islamic State but kept fighting and growing in strength and numbers under the SDF banner.

Tensions between the YPG and Turkey have persisted, in turn straining ties between Washington and Ankara. Turkey has sought assurances from the United States that arms being provided to defeat Islamic State militants will not later be turned against Turkey.

The YPG now controls vast stretches of land along the border northeast of Aleppo and a pocket of territory to its northwest. In between, Turkish-backed factions have taken over territory to keep Kurdish forces from linking up.

 

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