The SDF claims to be a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional force, and in terms of those who operate under its banner, this is true. It is equally true that the SDF’s military command structure is entirely in the hands of the People’s Protection Forces (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel—YPG), and that the political structures of the SDF are dominated overwhelmingly by the YPG’s political branch, the Democratic Union Party (Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat—PYD), which is in turn largely subordinate to the YPG military commanders (Omran Center, January 24, 2018).
The YPG/PYD is the name used by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê—PKK) when it operates on Syrian soil (Hurriyet, November 16, 2018). This has been acknowledged publicly by U.S. intelligence (Director of National Intelligence, p. 21, February 13, 2018). Other Western states have documented the PKK’s habit of creating deniable branches, notably the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (Teyrebazen Azadiye Kurdistan—TAK) (Australian Federal Register of Legislation, August 2, 2018). The PKK, an extremist organization that combined Marxism and Kurdish nationalism, is listed as a terrorist organization by the European Union, United States, and many other Western governments due to its atrocious conduct in the separatist war it has waged against Turkey since the early 1980s.
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