Syria | PKK

Analysis: Dangerous “Local Partner” The YPG’s Terror Campaign in Northern Syria

This report urges the backers of the YPG to address its terror strategy, and to investigate, arrest, and punish those responsible for random attacks and war crimes resulting in the death of civilians. If these countries, most notably the United States, Russia and France, are unable or unwilling to do so, they have to re-evaluate their support to the armed group or be held accountable for the war crimes of the YPG.

This report sheds light on the YPG’s attacks within the areas of the Euphrates Shield, Olive Branch, and Peace Spring Operations in the period between July 2018 and November 2019. It focuses on how the YPG adapted to the new reality in northern Syria and adopted terrorist tactics, primarily in the form of assassinations and car bomb attacks which are becoming more frequently used by the YPG in the place of direct military action.

The increase of attacks by the YPG is posing the question of whether the YPG is going back to the tactics of the PKK after it changed its way of engagement in Syria due to the civil war and the U.S.-backed operation against DAESH. The YPG’s use of car bombs, IEDs, and assassinations is clearly from the textbook of the PKK. The methods, aims, and the strategy of the YPG in Syria do not differ greatly from those of the PKK in Turkey. After losing territory, the switch towards PKK tactics that were used for years in its terror campaign in Turkey, does not only reveal the real nature of the YPG but also underlines the Turkish arguments against it. With the increase in attacks, the U.S. and other supporters of the YPG will have to answer as to why they are backing and engaging with a terrorist entity.

Since the Operation Peace Spring, the YPG has conducted 9 car bomb attacks, engaged in 10 cross-border attacks on Turkey, and planted several IEDs, in total killing at least 113 civilians and wounding at least 178. To put this in perspective, this number is 2.3 times larger than the actual civilian combat fatalities (49) on all sides during Operation Peace Spring.

This report urges the backers of the YPG to address its terror strategy, and to investigate, arrest, and punish those responsible for random attacks and war crimes resulting in the death of civilians. If these countries, most notably the United States, Russia and France, are unable or unwilling to do so, they have to re-evaluate their support to the armed group or be held accountable for the war crimes of the YPG..

In this article