Pentagon: Turkish Air Strikes in Syria Directly Threatened US Troops

After the Turkish retaliatory air strikes in Syria targeted bases used by American forces and US-backed Kurdish fighters, the Pentagon indirectly accused Ankara of endangering US troops, claiming that further escalations could compromise its efforts to defeat the remnants of the terrorist Islamic State.

Ankara and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have been previously accused of undermining the fight against IS due to military campaigns against the US-backed Kurds by several US officials, including President Joe Biden.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Pentagon press secretary Patrick Ryder expressed Washington’s deep concern about rising hostilities in Syria, Iraq, and Turkey, noting that the escalation threatens the Global Coalition to Defeat IS’s years-long progress as well as the safety of the US personnel who are working in Syria.

Ryder pointed out that Turkish strikes on Kurdish militia factions risked harming US forces stationed in close proximity, directly threatening their safety.

The US military acknowledged on Tuesday that a Turkish drone strike against Kurdish fighters in Syria came close to the base used by the Americans, initially saying that it didn’t endanger the lives of any US personnel.

Though no specific mention of the strikes in Syria was mentioned in an early morning call between the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and his Turkish counterpart, sources familiar with the call say that was the focal point of their discussion.

The situation, however, changed the next day when CENTCOM (the US Central Command) said the Turkish air strikes had placed US troops at risk with an unnamed Pentagon official describing that at the time of the attack, the US troops were within 300m of the base in northeastern Syria’s al-Hasakah.

The attacks prompted calls for de-escalation of the situation by the US State Department spokesperson Ned Price late Monday, who demanded protection of civilian lives and support for the common goal of defeating IS, by the US-led coalition on Tuesday, which said strikes jeopardize the region’s stability, as well as by Pentagon.

After Turkey announced on Sunday that it destroyed 89 Kurdish targets in Syria and Iraq, the Pentagon warned that Ankara’s uncoordinated military actions threatened Iraq’s sovereignty, adding that although the US recognizes Turkey’s security concerns, it is concerned by the deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure.

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