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US commandos ordered to remove 'inappropriate' YPG patches

Turkey's foreign minister sarcastically suggested that US commandos should also wear Islamic State and Boko Haram patches
Training camp of YPG fighters whose insignia US commandos have been ordered to remove (AFP)

US special operations forces photographed in Syria wearing the insignia of Kurdish troops considered terrorists by Turkey have been ordered to remove the patches, a military spokesman said on Friday.

The US has more than 200 special operations troops in northern Syria, where they are said to be advising the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, the bulk of which is made of Kurdish People's Protection Units' (YPG) fighters.

Questions, however, have been raised about whether the commandos, pictured close to the front lines with the Islamic State (IS), may be more involved in the SDF's push towards IS's de facto capital, Raqqa.

The YPG patches that some of the commandos are seen wearing in the photos have, in turn, increased US-Turkey tensions.

Earlier on Friday, a day after the photos emerged, Ankara accused the US, a NATO ally, of "unacceptable" behaviour for such an overt display of support for the group.

“It is unacceptable that an ally country is using the YPG insignia," said Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish foreign minister. "We advise them to wear badges of Daesh or the Nusra Front when they go to other parts of Syria and badges of Boko Haram when they go to Africa."

"If they don't see these as the same as the YPG, then this is double standards, hypocrisy."

A US military spokesman said initially that the soldiers were "blending in" with local forces. 

As the drama unfolded, Middle East Eye contributor Wladimir Van Wilgenburg asked Salih Muslim, co-chairman of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) of which the YPG is the armed wing, what he thought:

But late on Friday, Baghdad-based military spokesman Colonel Steve Warren told reporters: "Wearing those YPG patches was unauthorised and inappropriate, and corrective action has been taken

"We have communicated as much to our military partners and military allies in the region."

While it is not unusual for US special operations forces to wear the insignia of partner forces, Warren said in this case it was inappropriate to do so given the "political sensitivities" around the issue.

Ankara regards the YPG as a terror group, accusing it of carrying out attacks inside Turkey and being the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has fought an insurgency against the Turkish state for over three decades.

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