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Dancing to Erdogan's Tune: US Military Tells Troops to Remove Kurdish Insignia After Turkey Throws a Fit

'The most powerful country in the world'

It was fun while it lasted. Media brought us rare photographs of US special forces in northern Syria (which are there illegally, without an invitation from the Syrian government), which happened to reveal that some of the American soldiers sent to prop up the Kurdish nationalist YPG had taken to wearing its insignia.

Turkey of course was not amused. YPG is not only a Kurdish nationalist outfit, but also the Syrian branch of the Turkey-based PKK which has been waging a decades-long guerrila campaign against Turkish armed forces.

Turkey of course went ballistic

Speaking at a press conference in Antalya, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that “wearing an insignia of a terrorist organization by U.S. soldiers, who are our ally and are assertive about fighting against terrorism, is unacceptable.”

“Our suggestion to them is that they should also wear Daesh, al-Nusra, and al Qaeda insignias during their operations in other regions of Syria,” Cavusoglu said, using an alternative name for the Islamic State. “They can also wear the Boko Haram insignia when they go to Africa.”

American reaction? American reaction has been to order it's troops to take the patches of the YPG militia they've been sent to aid down. US military spokesman Col. Steve Warren briefed the media:

"I think the first thing to make clear is wearing those YPG patches was unauthorized and inappropriate, and corrective action has been taken. We have communicated as much to our military partners and our military allies in the area. "

[7 minutes and 57 seconds into the video:]

The briefing leaves no doubt. Unauthorized and inappropriate. Corrective action has been taken. Military partners have already been informed. In other words, this shouldn't have happened, we've made sure it's no longer happening and the Turks have already been informed.

So perhaps the fun isn't over yet after all? Here we have the self-proclaimed "most powerful country in the world", yet Turkey gets veto power over what kind of patch its most elite troops get to sew on their sleeve.

And don't buy the explanation Pentagon has done so because the patches were against its regulations. A day earlier US military explained

When it comes to the YPG patch, Bowens [Tiffany Bowens, spokesperson for U.S. Special Forces Command in the Middle East] said, “this practice is officially against uniform regulations,” but “U.S. Special Operations Forces and their counterparts typically swap unit patches as a method to build trust.” Intended as a sign of cooperation, the patch swap has been “employed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Jordan. This is a tactical decision and not a reflection of U.S. Government policy.”

So yeah, the practice is technically against some old school military regulation, however, the US military has long tolerated and encouraged it in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is only here in Syria and after Turkish complaints that Pentagon has decided to backtrack and re-discover long-forgotten dress regulations.

The irony is that as a consistently reliable and battle-worthy ally the YPG and the Kurds in general are actually far more popular with the US troops on the ground than their unreliable and often less-than-useful Afghan and Iraqi allies.

So there you go US soldiers. You're welcome to sew on the patches of the utterly corrupt new DC-sponsored Iraqi and Afghan armies, but the patches of an actually useful militia battling it out against ISIS? Not so much.

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