US orders troops in Syria to remove Kurdish insignia
WASHINGTON—American special operations troops were not authorized to wear the patches of Kurdish forces while advising them in Syria and have been told to remove them, the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad said Friday, after Turkish leaders protested.
Army Col. Steve Warren said that while U.S. special operations forces have historically and routinely worn the insignia of foreign troops they are working with, this case was not appropriate due largely to political sensitivities.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it was “unacceptable” for soldiers of a Turkish ally to use the patches of the YPG, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units fighting the Islamic State group. Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdish Workers’ Party, or PKK, an armed insurgent group which it has fought for decades and is considered a terror organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Photos of U.S. special operations forces wearing the insignia surfaced this week, and Turkish leaders relayed their complaint to the U.S.
“There’s political sensitivities around the organization that that patch represents, and that makes it inappropriate,” Warren told Pentagon reporters Friday. “These guys on the ground do what they’re going to do and they have their customs and courtesies that they have been following for years. But it’s also important to understand the larger strategic context ... and I think that’s the inappropriateness of it, is that they didn’t understand that.” Warren said Army regulations do not authorize troops to wear foreign patches, but the practice has gone on for years among commandoes as part of an effort to connect with the troops they are training.
Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, said Friday that the U.S. has made it clear that to defeat the Islamic State, “we would need to work with many different elements operating on the ground in Iraq and Syria,” and the U.S. will continue to do that. Warren said the troops were told the remove the patches and that he was not aware of any discipline related to the incident.—AP