Formed in 1978, the PKK waged an armed struggle against Turkey for years to establish an independent Kurdistan. But all that ended in the 1990s.
The group renounced violence after PKK chief Abdullah Ocalan declared a unilateral ceasefire following his arrest in 1999. The group also jettisoned its Marxist political philosophy, according to published reports.
Today the group is known for respecting gender equality, secularism and minorities. Its view of Islam is also “modern, moderate, and ecumenical,” according to regional experts.
More importantly, the PKK has been on the front lines in the fight against ISIS as part of the YPG (People’s Protection Units). The YPG is a key U.S. ally that has pushed back Islamic terrorists in wide swaths of Iraq and Syria.
The YPG’s female fighters are respected and feared by ISIS and the group has been cooperating with the U.S. military presence in the area for years.
But all that was lost on the President during his initial remarks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“Today we face a new enemy in the fight against terrorism and again we seek to face this threat together. The Turkish people have faced horrible terrorist attacks in recent years and even recently,” he said in his opening statement.
“We support Turkey in the first fight against terror and terror groups like ISIS and the PKK and to insure that they have no safe quarter, the terror groups,” he added.
While the PKK, the YPG and the Kurdish Peshmerga have been leading the fight against ISIS, Turkey’s role in the region has been questionable to say the least.
Erdogan’s government has been accused of buying black market oil from ISIS and allowing convoys of heavy arms to cross Turkey into Iraq and Syria, destined for the Islamic group.
When ISIS swept into an Iraqi area occupied by Christian Yazidis and began a wholesale slaughter, Turkey took no action. In contrast, Kurdish units, including those affiliated with the PKK, attacked ISIS and rescued 70,000 Yazidis stranded on Iraq’s Mount Sinjar.
Turkey says it’s committed to fighting ISIS, but it’s also bombing Kurdish groups.
In addition, Erdogan’s own AKP political party has been increasingly embracing a more militant form of Islam as part of a repressive crackdown against political opponents.
The fact that Trump branded the PKK a terrorist group was a major national security faux pas. Either by accident or design, he threw under the bus one of the nation’s staunchest allies against ISIS, solely to appease another dictator.