On Thursday, things got a little stranger. The State Department announced that it had held direct talks with the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (P.Y.D.), a Syrian Kurdish group that is linked to the P.K.K. In other words, American diplomats met with the Syrian affiliate of a group that Turkey had just bombed and that the United States has listed as a terrorist organization since 1997. …
During Thursday’s press conference, [State Dept. spokesperson Jen] Psaki offered that the United States is “certainly aware of the connection” between the P.K.K. and the P.Y.D., but tempered word of the meeting by saying that it “does not represent coordination — it represents one conversation.” Nevertheless, the news comes as the United States appears to be in the market for new ground forces in Syria. As Hannah Allam reports, the U.S. announced it plans to scrap its affiliation with the Free Syrian Army to recruit and train its own moderate force to do battle in Syria.
And the quicksand deepens. Alia Malek observes that the PKK is gaining a following among Iraqi Kurds as well, making the Kurdistan Regional Government nervous:
In the past, the PKK did not count many Iraqi Kurds among its members, nor was the separatist group a critical player in Kurdistan’s internal affairs. But since ISIL fighters swept through northern Iraq this summer, that has changed. Increasingly, Iraqi Kurds are embracing the PKK fighters as heroes, lauding them for recapturing the northern Iraqi town of Makhmour and its surrounding villages and for rescuing thousands of members of the Yazidi ethnic group who were trapped in nearby Sinjar. …
The PKK’s newfound popularity in Iraq’s semiautonomous region of Kurdistan has been watched warily by the government here. Not only could the group’s rise upset internal politics; it could also destabilize the region’s relations with other nations. The Kurdistan regional government, or KRG, has long maintained good relations with Turkey, which has for 30 years been locked in a violent struggle with the PKK.
Matthias Christensen criticizes the haphazard way in which weapons have poured over Turkey’s border to various Syrian rebel groups since the start of the conflict. He urges NATO to step in and start directing traffic:
Turkey’s laissez-faire policy on weapons flows has failed miserably. Studies show that there are currently around 1,500 different opposition groups in Syria – and that number relates directly to the way weapons are distributed. A policy guided by strategy and implemented with the help of other NATO members would beget a coherent Syrian opposition – an absolutely central component to bringing the war to an end. This streamlining of supplies would be a top-down process, but it would be effective, since Syrian fighters are quite naturally drawn to groups that can supply them with weapons, training, food and a basic living standard. Military coherence, in other words, will result in a politically legitimate opposition movement.
And in coalition news, as it is, Lake and Rogin report that the Turkish government has agreed to let the US launch drones, but not manned planes, from its key airbase at Incirlik:
“They are letting us do a ton of signals work,” a U.S. official working the issue said, using military jargon for the interception of hostile communications. “They have not objected to just about anything on the surveillance side. The fights have been about manned aircraft coming in and out.” … One U.S. intelligence official told The Daily Beast that overall Turkey has been willing to allow the United States to fly drones out of Incirlik but has not allowed the United States to fly manned aircraft. Instead, those missions have been flown from other locations and from aircraft carriers stationed in the region.