As Nancy Youssef of the Daily Beast reports, the Pentagon may still be putting on a brave face, but the Obama administration is increasingly shifting its attention away from the NSF and toward supporting an existing force: the 50,000-strong Popular Protection Units, better known by their Kurdish initials YPG. The Syrian Kurdish militia has been “the most effective fighting force in Syria,” according to one U.S. official, wrestling almost a dozen towns out of ISIS’s hands, including the hard-fought victory at Kobani last year. That victory was made possible by U.S. air support, and the partnership has only deepened since then. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the U.S. military and the YPG are coordinating “air and ground operations through a joint command center in northern Iraq. And in two new centers in Syria’s Kobani and Jazeera regions, YPG commanders are in direct contact with U.S. commanders.”It makes sense that the U.S. would want to support an established, effective, non-Islamist fighting force on the ground in Syria, but the YPG partnership is still an odd one. For one thing, the U.S. government sort of considers them terrorists. The YPG is the Syrian affiliate of the PKK, the Marxist-nationalist guerilla group that has been fighting the Turkish government for decades and has been on the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organizations list since 1997 for its attacks in Turkey and on Turkish interests abroad, including kidnappings and suicide bombings. (The YPG claims to operate independently, but at the very least it shares the PKK’s ideology and reveres its imprisoned founder Abdullah Ocalan.)
Southern Poverty Law Center
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