The Pentagon has seemingly changed its position on U.S. special operations troops wearing uniform insignia linked to the armed group of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Photos emerged showing American Green Berets wearing the Kurdish YPG insignia on their uniform.
U.S. NATO ally Turkey has consistently linked the YPG to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has been deemed a terrorist group by both Washington and Ankara.
“Taken by a photographer working for Agence France-Presse, the photos show a cadre of American troops in an unarmored Toyota pickup truck mounted with a grenade launcher,” reports the Military Times. “At least one bearded soldier is wearing both an American flag patch and also a green patch with a star signifying the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Forces, known as the YPG.”
Initially, the Pentagon argued that it is common for Green Berets and other U.S. special forces to wear the patches of their allies.
“Special operations forces when they operate in certain areas do what they can to, if you will, blend in with the community to enhance their own protection, their own security,” Peter Cook, the Pentagon press secretary, told reporters on Thursday.
On Twitter, Army Col. Steve Warren, a Baghdad-based spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), appeared to defend the U.S. troops wearing the YPG patch, referring to it as a “sign of partnership.”
— COL Steve Warren (@OIRSpox) May 26, 2016
On Friday, however, Col. Warren said wearing the insignia is “inappropriate,” Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports.
“Wearing those YPG patches was unauthorized and inappropriate, and corrective action has been taken,” Warren told Pentagon reporters, adding, “We have communicated as much to our military partners and military allies in the region.”
Col. Warren noted that it was inappropriate to wear the patches due to “political sensitivities” around the issue, reiterating that it is not uncommon for U.S. special operations to wear the insignia of allied forces.
Turkey reportedly accused the United States of “unacceptable” behavior for supporting the YPG.
The Obama administration has made contradictory statements on whether it considers the PYD and YPG to be associated with the PKK, which is primarily based in Turkey.
While President Barack Obama’s Department of State has consistently argued that the YPG is viable U.S. partner against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) on the ground, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter recently conceded that the Syrian Kurdish groups are linked to the terrorist PKK terrorists.