The U.S. military called the Special Forces decision to wear combat patches affiliated with the Kurdish fighters they were training “unauthorized and inappropriate” and ordered the troops to stop wearing them, a DoD spokesman said Friday.
On Thursday, photos emerged of the forces wearing patches belonging to the YPG, an armed Kurdish group that U.S.-allied Turkey believes to be affiliated with a terror group, the PKK, or the Kurdish Workers’ Party.
But for the U.S., the YPG has been the most effective local force to push back gains by the self-proclaimed Islamic State. And the U.S. military has more than 200 troops in northeast Syria advising YPG and Arab forces that are now less than 20 miles away from city of Raqqa, the ISIS capital.
The emergence of the photos set off a diplomatic crisis between the Untied States and Turkey, which on Friday called the United States “two-faced” for refusing to call the YPG terrorists. Turkish Foreign Minsiter Mevlut Cavusoglu also called the decision to wear the red, yellow, and green YPG patches “unacceptable.”
Moreover, the photos suggested that despite U.S. pronouncements that its forces were far from the front lines, troops are actually moving with local forces toward Raqqa.
Army Col. Steven Warren told reporters at the Pentagon that while Special Forces often wear patches belonging to local forces they are training in a show of support, it is technically not allowed.
Warren also said it was inappropriate given the “political sensitivities around the patch” and that the troops involved “didn’t understand or appreciate [that] as they should have.”
He added: “Everyone is moving on.”
—Nancy A. Youssef