By Michael Hernandez
The U.S. urged its main Syrian ally to rebrand itself to avoid Turkish concerns and give the group a voice in Syria's future, the head of U.S. special forces said Friday.
"I was on the formative stage of the relationship with these guys," Army Gen. Raymond Thomas told a security gathering in Aspen, Colorado.
"They formally called themselves the YPG, who the Turks would say equated to the PKK," he said. "So we literally played back to them that you’ve got to change your brand. What do you want to call yourself
The name change was vital to getting the group legitimacy in talks about Syria's future, Thomas said, noting that U.S. special envoy Brett McGurk "was able to keep them in the conversation" after the rebranding.
"They wanted a seat at the table," Thomas said, "and because they had been branded as PKK they could never get to the table."
Thomas acknowledged that group will still have a "branding challenge going forward".
"The first time Brett McGurk and I went out to this very old, cold
"We said, '
The U.S. has supported the PKK/PYD along with several other Arab militia groups under the umbrella of the SDF, long vexing Ankara.
The U.S. views the SDF as a "reliable partner" in its fight against Daesh and continues to provide it with arms and equipment against strong objection by Turkey that views the PKK/PYD as the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terror group.
The PKK has waged a terror campaign against Turkey for more than 30 years that has led to the deaths of more than 40,000 people. It is a designated terror group in Turkey, the U.S.