US Spec Ops Troops on Front Line in Syria with Leftist Kurdish Insignia: AFP

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Agence France Presse got the scoop on Thursday, with their reporters in Fatisa just 19 miles from Daesh territory in northern al-Raqqa Province, Syria saying they saw some 20 US special operations troops embedded with leftist Kurdish YPG units and wearing YPG insignia. (The latter move is to prevent friendly fire incidents, signaling to the Kurds that despite their foreign appearance, they are white hats).

The AFP report says that the troops are engaged in combat and are not just in a support role. For instance, they are said to be firing anti-tank munitions at Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) car bombs, detonating them before they can be deployed against the advancing YPG.

The Pentagon maintained, when asked about the AFP story and pictures, that the US troops are there solely in a training and support mission and are not engaged in combat. A spokesman explained of the YPG insignia that special operations troops dress idiosyncratically, in this case in order to “blend in.”

Some observers expressed fears of backlash from Turkey over the insignia issue, since Ankara considers the YPG to be a terrorist organization on the model of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The US agrees that the PKK is terroristic, but puts the YPG in a different category.

Personally, I doubt if Turkey will be more angered than it already is. The US hasn’t signed on to President Erdogan’s attempt to overthrow al-Assad by allying with hard line jihadis. And Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has been very public about his belief that the Syrian Kurds and their Arab allies are the only effective fighting forces capable of taking on Daesh, and Turkey will just have to lump it.

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7 Responses

  1. Unless Turkey wants to risk going into the history books as having fired at both Russian and American troops, they are going to have to cease firing at any and all YPG.

    This in itself will be more valuable to the YPG then the so far limited numbers of special forces – unless those are increased substantially over what is currently admitted.

    • Col. Steve Warren of the U.S. Army just issued a statement calling the wearing of the YPG patch by its personnel both unauthorized and inappropriate, and also conveying that statement to Turkish officials who have complained.

      Warren indicated corrective action has been taken.

    • U.S. Special Ops Forces are assisting YPG units to target ISIS. They are not targeting Assad. The U.S. backed off making Assad’s departure the primary goal a couple of years ago, talk of a negotiated transfer of power notwithstanding.

      Bottom line: From the U.S. point of view, there is no “strategy” for filling the vacancy left by the demise of Assad because Assad’s demise is far from imminent.

    • The Kurds want their own state, partitioning of Syria as well as Iraq seems to be unavoidable, best case scenario: If Assad is replaced by a more moderate leader this could be within a federation.

  2. Reminds me of all the frumping about the thousands of Russian troops in Donbass and the repeated claims (ad naseum) in the western press about how Russia was lying about it.

    Somehow these ruskies were all over the place and it was so painfully obvious as to be unquestionable. According to the US media, these were organized Russian combat units that were everywhere. It was amazing how this was accomplished with OSCE observers on site, and no photos.

    The US media which was so willing to gullibly accept all claims about ruskie troops to the point of loading its stories with sarcasm, now accepts with devotion the strained explanations of the USG in Syria.

    I assume the Russians had some military personnel in Ukraine. After all, it shares a long border and the population of Donbass is largely ethnic Russians, and Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union for decades, with many many cultural and economic ties. But the claims of large organized units in the US media were simply not credible.

    Syria is thousands of miles from the USA, and a large percentage of Americans are openly hostile to “towel heads”. Yet the media acts like is just natural and the USA has troops there, while those dam evil Ruskies, how dare they intervene on their own doorstep.

  3. Nice to see the US Administration declaring at least partial independence from the worthless crew in Ankara.
    Last time I checked, Turkey was backing ANF with no intent of laying off.

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