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WASHINGTON,— The United States does not consider the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG), the armed wing of the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syrian Kurdistan, a terrorist organization, U.S. State Department Spokesperson John Kirby has declared.
“We don’t consider the YPG a terrorist organization, and they have proven successful against ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] inside Syria. And as I said, we’re going to continue to work with counter-ISIL fighters who are and can be successful against this group, and they’re not all Kurds,” Kirby said at a press conference in Washington, while responding to a question on the gap between the Turkish and the U.S. stance against the group.
“We understand that the Turkish government has concerns about the YPG. We continue to talk to them and engage them. We continue to be appreciative of the support that Turkey is making to the coalition and to direct kinetic activity against ISIL,” Kirby said.
The spokesperson added that the coalition has come together for a common goal. “You do not have to agree on every issue; and you bring to the fight what you can, where you can, and when you can. And that’s how we’re managing this very important struggle.”
Turkish officials have repeatedly raised concerns about the YPG’s ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), but also said the group was not a target unless it targets Turkey.
Kirby also referred to U.S. concerns over Russia’s recent steps to expand its military presence in Syria.
Although Russia has said it is boosting its military aid to Syria, the U.S. does not know if these statements are true, Kirby said.
U.S. Central Command spokesman said on Friday gains made by Syrian Kurd fighters against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have also lent support to Iraq’s fight against the extremist group by disrupting ISIL’s freedom of movement between the two countries.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon via teleconference, Air Force Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder emphasized U.S. and coalition forces are also supporting and enabling Syrian Kurd opposition fighters in its train-and-equip program.
For nearly a year, other indigenous forces, such as Syrian Kurd fighters, have had support as they fought to save the town of Kobani, Syria, from ISIL, he said. “And the number of forces have continued to grow,” he added.
Since the start of the fight against ISIL, Syrian Kurds have achieved “significant effects” in the Northeast part of Syria, he said.
“[Syrian Kurds] pushed ISIL back and in the process, regained more than 17,000 square kilometers of territory — more than 6,500 square miles — previously held by the enemy,” Ryder noted.
“They’ve also retaken critical border crossing points between Syria and Turkey, including Kobani [and] Tal Abyad, and going forward, this should help abate the flow of foreign fighters into Syria,” he said.
With Syrian Kurds disrupting ISIL’s movement in Iraq and Syria, Ryder said the Kurds’ gains should over time help to further stabilize and improve security inside Iraq.
“So, we want to see these anti-ISIL forces operating in Syria continue to be successful,” he said.
In a fight as complex as fighting ISIL forces in Iraq and Syria, Ryder said “it should be expected” the United States can and will employ every available asset to disrupt and degrade the enemy.
“Going forward, we will continue to pursue opportunities as they present themselves across what is a very complex and dynamic battlefield,” he said.
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