Talal Silo, a former spokesperson of the SDF in Syria who recently defected and came to Turkey says the United States gave the approval to evacuate of Daesh militants in three different cases in Syria, including the evacuation of Raqqa.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) allowed Daesh militants to escape on three separate occasions in Syria, including Raqqa, the former spokesman of the SDF told Anadolu Agency.
Talal Silo, a former high-ranking commander, is currently in Turkey after defecting from the SDF last month. The SDF is dominated by the PYD’s armed wing, the YPG.
The PYD/YPG is the Syrian affiliate of the PKK, a group designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and the EU. It has been fighting the Turkish state for decades and has left more than 30,000 people dead, including civilians.
He revealed details of US military support for the PKK/PYD, and deals struck under the guise of combating Daesh.
Evacuation of Raqqa
Hundreds of Daesh militants with trucks full of weapons left the Syrian city of Raqqa the first big city Daesh captured in early 2014, declaring it as its de-facto capital.
Daesh has used Raqqa as a base for conducting operations across the Middle East and Europe.
“Daesh did not have any other place to go but Deir Ezzor. The US seemed to agree with that. Because the SDF made two moves [in Raqqah and Deir Ezzor] at the same time, their men in Deir Ezzor were weak,” said Silo.
“According to the Americans, the regime army could reach Deir Ezzor in six weeks. But when the regime army proceeded faster than expected, the US wanted the SDF to begin negotiations with Daesh,” he said, adding that the US wanted them to reach Deir Ezzor before the Syrian regime army.
The US Department of Defense spokesman on Iraq and Syria confirmed the evacuation after a BBC report revealed that it was conducted under the watch of the US. But he added that they disagreed to let armed men join the convoy.
“No moves can be made without the approval of the US because the US provides support, especially air support. The Americans cannot eliminate Daesh without ground operations. Everybody knew that,” he replied a question about whether or not the move was taken without US approval.
“Raqqa was not the first collusion”
The former SDF spokesperson said that Raqqa was not the first place evacuated by Daesh as part of the agreement. It was the third, after Jarablus and Tabqah.
“It was the third. The US and Cilo did it by common consent,” Silo said adding that the first agreement between the US-backed YPG and Daesh was in Manbij. Cilo is the SDF general commander, and a senior PKK/PYD figure.
“The SDF, the US and Manbij Military Council provided security for 2,000 Daesh members and allowed them to go towards Jarablus. This was the first agreement,” Silo said.
He said the other agreement took place for Tabqah, which is located along the Euphrates River.
The PKK/PYD is currently occupying more than a fourth of Syrian territory with the help of the US since 2014. The first military support came from the US under former president Barack Obama.
The move angered Turkey. At the end of 2015, the SDF was formed to ease tensions with Turkey, but since the YPG spearheaded the new group, Turkey kept up its opposition.
The group has been accused by human right groups of ethnic cleansing against Turkmen and Arab communities in the territory they are controlling.
Amnesty International said in a report that the YPG was committing war crimes in northern Syria by forcing thousands of non-Kurdish civilians out of their homes and demolishing entire villages.
In late 2015, the London-based rights watchdog said the YPG had destroyed more than a dozen villages.
According to the report, some YPG militants also threatened civilians with US-led air strikes if they failed to leave their homes.
PKK's expansion strategy
In the first parts of the interview that Anadolu Agency published, Silo spoke about the organisation’s "exit to the Mediterranean" project. Silo said that the expansion strategy of the organisation has grown as it advanced its area of control, starting from eastern Syria along the border with Iraq, westward through the Turkish border.
He also said the future of the organisation is connected to its ability to open a corridor to the Mediterranean from land, and to connect directly with, and receive support from, the external world.
The money comes from oil trade. According to Silo, the PKK/PYD has sold oil abroad, and the money earned was invested in banks in Lebanon, and later transferred to Europe.
“US arming terror groups”
Silo also said that “the SDF was just a name” that provided cover for US support for the YPG.
The US itself admits to this, with US Army General Raymond Thomas, head of Special Operations Command, saying, “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.”