WASHINGTON – A secret deal with Turkey allowing U.S. access to Incirlik Air Base may hinge on a provision that the Turkish base can’t be used to support the Kurds, undermining U.S. efforts to defeat ISIS, according to a new report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
Kurdish sources who requested anonymity tell G2Bulletin that Turkey doesn’t want the U.S. to give air support to Syrian Kurdish fighters of the YPG, or Peoples Protection Units, the Syrian arm of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK.
PKK members are regarded as terrorists by Turkey and the U.S. The YPG, however, isn’t on the U.S. terrorist list.
For months, the U.S. has been providing air support for YPG fighters, who are regarded as the only effective ground force against ISIS.
The use of Incirlik Air Base would enable the U.S. to provide air support to the Kurdish fighters more efficiently.
YPG fighters even have received praise recently from U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Kevin Killea, chief of staff of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, which is overseeing efforts to fight ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
He called the YPG a “credible partner on the ground in the fight against ISIS in northern Syria.”
In response to a query from G2Bulletin, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook did not deny that such an arrangement with Turkey exists.
But he said, “I am not going to tell you what is in the agreement with Turkey” regarding U.S. use of the strategically located air base.
The development also comes after 54 U.S.-trained “moderate” Syrian opposition forces were ambushed by al-Qaida’s Jabhat al-Nusra Front fighters. A number of the opposition fighters, who recently were trained in Turkey, were killed, and some of their commanders were taken captive.
The 54 troops are part of a program in which 5,000 are to be trained to fight ISIS. The Pentagon admits the program has had a problem with vetting candidates, since the U.S. insists the fighters pledge to fight ISIS and not the Syrian military. As a result, recruitment has been severely cut back.
Sources tell G2Bulletin that Turkish intelligence was responsible for tipping off al-Nusra before the attack.
“All of this speaks to a bigger issue of how Turkey is perceived to have been nurturing the Islamist side of the Syrian insurgency, at the expense of Syrian nationalists,” Aaron Stein, a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Business Insider.