Despite constant US denial of any links between the YPG and the PKK, Talat Silo, the former spokesman of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is mainly led by the YPG, said in a recent interview that the YPG is taking direct orders from the PKK terror group's Qandil leadership.
Since 2014, the YPG has been backed by Washington on the grounds that the armed group was the most formidable force against Daesh in northern Syria.
Turkey strongly protested the US' support to the group, describing the YPG as the Syrian wing of the PKK, which is recognised as a terrorist organisation by both Washington and Ankara. As a result, Washington supports a terrorist group in northern Syria, according to Turkey.
“YPG and PYD [which is the political wing of the YPG] take all orders from the Qandil [leadership] through Sabri Ok [one of the top PKK leaders],” said Silo, who defected last year from the SDF to Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces.
Since the late 1990s, the PKK leadership has operated from the Qandil mountains located in northern Iraq. According to experts, Sabri Ok is one of the most influential PKK leaders, a possible replacement for Abdullah Ocalan, the founder and the leader of the PKK. Ocalan has been imprisoned in Turkey since 1999.
Silo, who is also a member of the Syrian Turkmen community, eventually came to Turkey on November 2017, publicly revealing strategic secrets of the SDF and YPG, including their dealings with the Americans and Daesh.
Silo also disclosed simmering tensions within the SDF leadership, indicating that the YPG commanders with direct links to the Qandil leadership have more influence over the group’s decision-making process.
While some YPG commanders like Sahin Cilo, who works closely with US forces, have strong public support, it's Fehman Huseyin who keeps them in check just because he has better contacts with the Qandil leadership, Silo said.
“While Cilo has much affinity toward Americans, Huseyin does not like them at all,” Silo viewed. Huseyin, a Syrian citizen and a long-time operative of the PKK, has been known for his hardline attitude in the PKK, which has embraced a Marxist-Leninist ideology since its establishment in 1974.
Washington and Damascus
During the interview, Silo also touched upon a sensitive political issue, which is the American stance toward the Assad regime.
“Before US operatives deliver weapons to the SDF, they make the members of the SDF sign contracts that they will not use those weapons against the regime forces,” said Silo, highlighting that he is making this fact known for the first time.
“We were taking these weapons after we signed the contracts.”
“Before US operatives deliver weapons to the SDF, they make the members of the SDF sign contracts that they will not use those weapons against the regime forces.”
Though the US has publicly called for Assad's overthrow, it hasn't done much in that spirit, leaving its NATO ally Turkey alone in resolving the conflict, which has world powers like Russia on the other side of the divide.
Like Washington, the YPG has also shown a contradictory stance toward the continuation of the Assad regime. Despite criticising the regime for being harsh toward the Kurdish people, the YPG occupied large parts of northern Syria soon after the withdrawal of Assad forces in 2012.
Earlier this year, prominent Syrian Kurdish opposition activists told TRT World that a 2011 deal brokered by Iranian and Iraqi Kurdish political figures made possible the withdrawal of the regime forces from northern Syria. The YPG, they said, agreed to discourage any opposition against the regime stemming from the Kurdish-populated areas.
According to the interview, Silo said the Assad regime orchestrated “the powerful emergence of the YPG in Al Jazira region [northeastern Syria], by providing weapons and logistic support to the group.”
The PKK leadership has had powerful links with the Assad regime since the late 1970s, when the group was allowed to operate terrorist training camps in the Syrian-occupied Bekaa Valley, now in Lebanon. Ocalan worked with the Assad family side by side before he was expelled from Syria following Turkish military pressure in 1998.