Intel: Why Washington is putting a bounty on Kurdish insurgents


The United States announced today that it is placing multimillion-dollar bounties on three leaders of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a Kurdish insurgent group.

During a visit to Turkey today, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer announced that the State Department’s Rewards for Justice program is offering money for information leading to the capture of the fugitives. The State Department has put the bounties at $5 million for Murat Karayilan, $4 million for Cemil Bayik and $3 million for Duran Kalkan.

Like Ankara, Washington has designated the PKK as a terrorist organization for more than a decade.

Why it matters: The US military alliance with the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian PKK affiliate, to fight the Islamic State (IS) in Syria has outraged Ankara. After the Turks ousted the YPG from Afrin earlier this year, Ankara and Washington reached an agreement to forestall a similar offensive in Manbij by reaching a compromise to jointly patrol the city. But in recent days, Turkey has resumed shelling YPG positions in northern Syria.

“Washington has consistently, if not coherently, sought to assuage Turkish anger over US support for the YPG by offering Turkey support against the PKK,” Nicholas Danforth, a senior analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center’s national security program, told Al-Monitor. Danforth added, "With Turkey putting increased pressure on the YPG and expressing frustration with progress on the Manbij roadmap, this looks like one more US effort to calm Ankara without offering further concessions in northern Syria.”

What’s next? The United States has said that the renewed Turkish attacks on its Syrian Kurdish allies have detracted from the fight against the remnants of IS. With frosty relations slowly thawing after the release of US pastor Andrew Brunson, it remains to be seen whether today’s announcement will be enough to assuage Ankara’s concerns.

Know more: Last year, Al-Monitor’s Kamal Chomani talked to one of the wanted PKK leaders in Iraq. Read our exclusive interview with Cemil Bayik here.

-Bryant Harris

Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:

  • The award-winning Middle East Lobbying - The Influence Game
  • Archived articles
  • Exclusive events
  • The Week in Review
  • Lobbying newsletter delivered weekly

Al-Monitor Staff

Next for you

The website uses cookies and similar technologies to track browsing behavior for adapting the website to the user, for delivering our services, for market research, and for advertising. Detailed information, including the right to withdraw consent, can be found in our Privacy Policy. To view our Privacy Policy in full, click here. By using our site, you agree to these terms.