Analysis: ‘Coalition Allies Play Into Islamic State’s Hands’

by Kyle Orton

Last week, a member of the Kurdish militia that is the primary instrument the U.S.-led Coalition is using in Syria to defeat the Islamic State (IS) was killed. Examining his biography underlined that this militia is the Syrian wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Marxist-separatist group that is registered as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, and Turkey. The Western powers continue to obfuscate, if not outright deny, this fact, but Coalition support for the PKK—questionable morally and legally in and of itself—is producing negative results on the ground that help IS over the long-term.

The YPG’s Foreign Fighters

Late on 9 November, the commander of a specialist unit within the People’s Protection Forces (YPG), the Kurdish militia that controls large areas of north-eastern Syria, Haji Kurkhan (Ali Botan), was killed in Qamishli. The circumstances of Kurkhan’s death are somewhat vague, but it is clear he was a Turkish citizen from Van, which is to say a member of the PKK.

It is known that the YPG attracts foreign fighters, including from the West. Many of the Westerners who have joined the YPG are ex-military. Some Western volunteers are Christians, who feel a religious duty to confront IS—though there have been tensions because of the YPG’s repressive practices, and a number of Christian foreign fighters have left YPG and joined Dwekh Nawsha in Iraq. There are then radical Leftists, from communists to anarchists, who are ideologically drawn to the YPG. And finally, there are the usual assortment of adventurers, chancers, and even criminals on the lam.

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