PKK Links, Nusra Parallels Make Syrian Kurds a Troubling U.S. Partner

PKK Links, Nusra Parallels Make Syrian Kurds a Troubling U.S. Partner
Syrian Kurdish fighters of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the village of Esme near Aleppo, Syria, Feb. 22, 2015 (AP photo by Mursel Coban).

Frustration over U.S. support for Syrian Kurdish militants seems to have prompted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to pose a thought experiment over what, exactly, is a terrorist.

The United States has developed a close working relationship with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which have emerged as the most effective fighting force against the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Turkey has watched this with increasing alarm. It alleges the YPG and its political wing, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), together form the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the Marxist-Kurdish nationalist organization that waged a decades-long war against the Turkish state and is now at the heart of an escalating insurgency in Turkey’s southeast.

Both Washington and Ankara consider the PKK a terrorist organization. But despite their best efforts, Turkish officials have so far been unable to push the U.S. to choose between its NATO ally and what Ankara calls PYD and YPG “terrorists.”

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