A former spokesperson and defector from the Syrian SDF, a group dominated by the terrorist PKK/PYD, spoke to Anadolu Agency on Friday.
Talal Sillo, a former high-ranking commander and spokesperson of the U.S.-backed force who defected from the terrorist group last month, is currently in Turkey.
Sillo divulged details of the U.S. arming terrorist groups in the region and what some U.S. officials thought about the PKK/PYD's presence in northern Syria.
Over Turkey’s objections, the U.S. has provided the PKK/PYD with arms, calling it an ally in the fight against Daesh, but ignoring its terrorist group status.
He also explained how the PKK-terrorist dominated force was formed and how the U.S. made a controversial deal to allow Daesh terrorists to leave the city of Raqqah before it was liberated.
How did your relations with the PKK begin?
At first, an invitation was issued from Afrin (YPG) to my group, the Seljuk Brigade. It was recommended that I joined the Revolutionary Army. I reached an agreement with those in Afrin and joined. Ahmet Hadro was the PKK member in charge in Afrin. They were preparing the establishment of the Revolutionary Army. Abu Ali Berad was in charge of the Arabs and Selah Chebbo was in charge of the Kurds. I was in charge of the Turkmens. I went to Afrin at the beginning of August 2015. I worked as part of the Revolutionary Army administration. However we weren’t the ones in charge, it was the PKK’s Hadro. Then they told me I was to join the SDF. We held the first meeting with PKK regional chief Şahin Cilo. Our meeting with the SDF was on Oct. 15. However Şahin Cilo (who announced the establishment of the SDF) wanted us to write Oct. 10 2015 as the meeting date. When we asked why, he said the U.S. had dispatched weapons to the YPG in al-Hasakah between Oct. 10 and 15. They did this so the U.S. could justify the situation and say the weapons went to the SDF not the YPG. That’s how the SDF was formed.
Special Forces Commander Gen. Raymond Thomas said the U.S. was "making a brilliant move" and changing the YPG name to the SDF to gain credibility. Hasn’t the SDF’s own identity been formed yet?
It's just a name. It's nothing else. We get everything including our salary from the YPG. The main reason for the establishment of the SDF is the U.S. The U.S. administration wanted to give the Kurds weapons. The SDF is only theater. It's referring to the union of the components, but there’s nothing like that. The U.S. leadership gave it to Kurds and PKK. They were talking about the struggle against terrorism, but we have seen that the U.S. administration and Şahin Cilo made an agreement to evacuate Daesh terrorists. They wanted to influence the citizens living in that region through the SDF. They painted the SDF as a liberating force fighting against terrorism. But because of them, houses were destroyed and the people were exiled.
The U.S. at one point alleged that it was giving weapons to Arabs, not the YPG. Is this true?
At first, we were just signing the documents (Americans gave us) to show we received the weapons. But all the weapons were going from the PKK leaders to someone called Safkan. Safkan took the weapons to a place only he knew. This is how it continued. For example, in the Afrin operation, all weapons were delivered to Arab national Abu Amcad, but only on paper. They did this knowingly. It was all theater. Abu Amcad said he was receiving very minimal weapons, and that his duty and authority was only to sign.
Why did the U.S. opt for this method?
All ideas were being put forward by Brett McGurk. During the Raqqa operation, McGurk requested the establishment of a force called the Arab Coalition. The task of the Arab Coalition was only to take the weapons. As a matter of fact, weapons were taken in huge quantities. But only light weapons were distributed to the Arabs, Turkmen and Syrians. The name of the coalition was Arab, but none of the Arabs had anything. The Deir ez-Zor military council is also just signing. The U.S. knew about this. All these games were made so that it was not revealed that the weapons were delivered to the PKK. But we were convinced that these advanced weapons go to PKK and YPG.
Does the U.S. monitor where the weapons go and who they are used against?
The Americans did not care where the guns were going. They did not ask us even once what we were doing with the weapons or where we were using them. They would say there would be no more (YPG) weapons, and then start a new delivery. The U.S. already knows that Arabs, Turkmens and Syrians are not a part of this equation. There was limited support during the Obama period. Trump changed shape after he got in. During the Obama era, both used and unused weapons were coming. When Trump came, armored vehicles started to arrive.
Şahin Cilo, codenamed Şahin Ferhad Abdi, is on Turkey’s wanted list. How involved is Cilo, who posed alongside U.S. officials?
We would form a request list (for the weapons). This was presented by Şahin Cilo. The weapons were not mentioned in the press. The types of weapons given were to be kept secret.
Who heads the SDF?
The U.S. is actually managing it. Even though there are elections, it’s all theater. Everyone knows Şahin Çilo. He’s in charge, and his assistant was Kahraman, who was a PKK administrator. I was the third in charge. There are PKK teams at each control point. There is always a PKK leader across courts, civilian assemblies, health centers and everything else.
Where in the SDF is the PKK’s Qandil team?
Cilo is in charge but there is someone who outranks him. This person is Bahoz Erdal. Bahoz receives instructions from Qandil, so Sabri Kök. When Erdal was appointed to Qandil, Nureddin Sofi came. They give instructions to Cilo. Cilo and his (assistant) Kahraman are only in the leading team. There are many offices but there are no new names due to disputes. Ahmet Hudro, Mahmut Berhudan and Nocin (for women) are the PKK and YPG administrators in Afrin. The entire region is managed by Halil Tefdem. Bahoz Erdal gives him orders. Ismail Direk, one of the PKK leaders, heads Manbij but the military officer is Cemil Mazlum. Raqqa's military and civilian administrator Hasan was brought from Europe. Polat Can, a top PKK official, is in charge of Deir ez-Zor. I once received an invitation to meet with Murat Karayılan from Qandil due to my relationship with Bahoz. It was cancelled in case our photographs were published in the press. Nureddin Sofi went there while Karayılan was delivering a statement. Then he came back. They go back and forth secretly. The PKK used Salih Müslim’s role in the media successfully. In reality, he had no role. During the self-governing provincial administration, they placed Müslim as seventh but he had no role in this project.
How many armed men were under the SDF?
Although there is no exact data, there are 50,000 militants. Both male and female, and 70 percent of them are YPG members. There were 65 Turkmens under my leadership. The Assyrian Military Assembly had only 50 men. They wanted the symbolic establishment of the Turkmen Military Assembly. I suggested 150 names. They asked why 150, and said 50 was enough. Sheikh Bender is in charge of this power. These are being ignored by the PKK. On the other hand, 80 percent of those killed in Raqqa operations were Kurds, and 20 percent were Arabs. We see that the number of Arabs was increased, but this is deception. False promises were made. Although the YPG is seen as a part of the SDF, they do not accept this and say they are independent. The SDF is only a name. They do not exist in real life.
What is the status of those who join the YPG from Western countries?
They come from various countries and join the YPG. There were women too. We've seen some come for advertising. It turned out that a Canadian woman was a model in her home country. Those of them who return to their home countries say they fought against Daesh and try to declare themselves national heroes.
How much are members paid?
Salaries range between $170 and $200 monthly. Leaders are unpaid but earn from smuggling and corruption. I was getting my salary paid directly from Şahin Cilo. I was receiving thousands of dollars and my situation was very good. The militants receive the Syrian lira. The PKK leader team is unpaid but all their demands are met. Corruption was revealed.