The red star of the YPG – PKK's sister organization – adorn the shoulders of US elite troops in Syria
In November 2015 a ground component to the US' anti-ISIS war in Syria was added with up to 50 special forces troops sent to prop up the Syrian Kurds. In April of these year these were bolstered with up to 250 more special forces soldiers deployed.
Aside from backing the Syrian Kurds with airstrikes, material and 250-300 soldiers it would seem that US troops involved have great rapport with the Kurdish fighters.
US special forces are a secretive bunch who tend to shun cameras and media attention but the troops in Syria have been captured in video and photograph a few times so far. In the latest instance footage shows them to be wearing Kurdish insignia. Specifically the yellow shoulder patch of the People's Defense Units (YPG) and the green patch of the Women's Protection Units (YPJ).
It is rather ironic that American troops should be sporting the red star of Socialism first used by Russia's Bolsheviks in 1917. Leon Trotsky must be smiling somewhere now.
Someone who definitely is not smiling is Turkey's fanatically anti-Kurdish leader Erdogan. From the Turkish point of view the American-Kurdish partnership in Iraq was bad enough, but the growing American-Kurdish partnership in Syria is by an order of magnitude worse.
Iraqi Kurds and Syrian Kurds both want independence if they can get it and autonomy if they can not. However, where Iraqi Kurds have their own leaders and movements the YPG which commands the loyalties of the Syrian Kurds follows the ideology of the Turkish Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan and is an outgrowth of the left-wing nationalist Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) which has been locked in a war with the Turkish state since the 1980s.
Note the resemblance between and the heavily left-wing themes of the flags of the PKK and YPG's political wing, the Democratic Union Party (PYD):
Even more similar are the battle banners of the YPG and the PKK's armed wing, the People's Defence Forces (HPG):
In other words, from the Turkish point of view US troops are now sporting the colors of terrorists. Confronted with this fact US military understandably sought to downplay the significance:
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.”
Nonetheless, a few facts remain. In the first US war on Iraq in 1990-91 Kurds profited and were able to carve out an autonomous (de facto independent) Iraqi Kurdistan. In the second US war in Iraq 2003-2011 they profited again and were able to greatly expand their zone of control. Thanks to the American (and Turkish) efforts against the Syrian government since 2011 Syrian Kurds have been likewise able to establish a formal autonomy which is de facto independent. Now thanks to US efforts since 2014 to rollback ISIS (which likewise profited from the US anti-Assad fight) the Kurds are expanding their influence in Syria further.
It seems that with every American intervention in the Middle East Kurds grow stronger and closer to their dream of united and independent Kurdistan. More by accident than by design US just can't stop undermining Turkey – the state it insists forms up the NATO's all-important southern flank.