America's Newest Allies Accused of Human Rights Violations

Naji Dahi
July 20, 2015

(ANTIMEDIA) When President Obama declared military operations against the Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL) ten months ago, the plan was to train moderate Syrian fighters to combat IS while the U.S. supported them with airstrikes. Advocates of the program claimed it would produce 5,600 U.S. trained and equipped fighters per year while costing a mere $500 million. Now, the plan to train and equip Syrian rebels who will only fight IS has clearly failed. it has produced just 54 fighters for combat in Syria.

As a result of this massive shortcoming, the U.S.’ strategy has shifted to coordinating its air strikes with a different rebel group. That rebel group is known as the YPG, a Kurdish militia that now controls most of northeastern and parts of northwestern Syria.

The YPG has been linked to the PKK, the Turkish-based Kurdistan Workers Party. The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union. The YPG is the only military force in northern Syria that has been effective at fighting ISIS. After its successful defense of Kobane, the U.S. military discovered that YPG was the only fighting force that made good use of U.S. air support in the war against ISIS. The U.S. is now pushing for the establishment of a united northern region in Syria under the control of the YPG. This would have the dual effect of fighting ISIS and preventing the movement of supplies and weapons to the organization across the long, porous border between Turkey and Syria.

The YPG, however, has its own agenda. It seeks to create a Kurdish independent province on the border with Turkey, known as Rojava, by linking the provinces of Cizir, Kobani, and Efrin together. To do that, the YPG must take over the border towns of Tal Abyad, Jarabulus, Kobani, and Azaz. The U.S. also wants the YPG to control these towns in order to cut the supply lines to the Islamic State. What the U.S. does not want is what YPG is actually doing when they take over these towns—ethnically cleansing the non-Kurdish population from the area. YPG was accused of doing just that when it recently took over Tal Abyad, where 26,000 people fled the town after YPG took it over. They did it again in the border town of Dedeler. According to Reuters,

“[Cemal] Dede says the Kurdish YPG militia did not let his family of seven return to Dedeler near the Turkish border, telling him it was now Kurdish territory and Turkmens like him had no place there…” When Islamic State was there, they persecuted people. Now there is YPG and they are no different,” the 43-year old told Reuters in an impromptu settlement of refugee tents at a disused truck depot near Turkey’s Akcakale border gate. ‘We don’t support any group, but still we are stripped of our right to live in our own land.’”

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Of course, a YPG official denied all such claims. As Reuters summarized:

“’When you come inside Tel Abyad, you’ll see that the Arabs, Muslims, Turkmens, the Armenian people, all of them – they are living together,’ said Idris Nassan, an official in the Kurdish administration for the Kobani canton, which includes Tel Abyad. ‘It is multi-cultural, multi-national, multi-sectarian. The protectors of this administration are the YPG, the People’s Protection Units. That refers to all people. We are not just for the Kurdish people.’”

To make matters worse for the YPG, it is also accused of using child soldiers, a practice that the West accuses ISIS, al-Nusra, Hezbollah, and other allegedly “bad actors” of doing. When it was previously accused of this, YPG promised to stop the practice but failed to actually do so. As Human Rights Watch reported,

“On June 5, 2014, the People’s Protection Unit (YPG) signed a ‘Deed of Commitment’ with the nongovernmental organization Geneva Call pledging to demobilize all fighters under 18 within one month. One month later, it demobilized 149 children. Despite this promise and the initial progress, Human Rights Watch documented cases over the past year of children under 18 joining and fighting with the YPG and the YPJ, its female branch.”

The employment of dangerous groups to achieve U.S. foreign policy goals is nothing new for U.S. decisionmakers. Back in 1979, U.S. and Saudi rulers created the Islamic fundamentalist movement, the Mujahideen, in order to have them fight the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The support of the Mujahideen—which included Osama Bin Laden—lasted until 1989, when the U.S.S.R. ended its occupation. After that, there was a destructive civil war in Afghanistan that eventually led to the rise of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. on 9/11.

It is anyone’s guess what sort of blowback will occur because of the foolish policy pursued by U.S. foreign policy elites. One thing, however, seems all but certain: it will not be beneficial to the United States in the long term.


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