WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan24) – As more details emerge of the airstrikes which Turkey conducted on Kurdish forces Tuesday morning, the extent of Ankara’s rift with the US is becoming clearer.
On Wednesday, Col. John Dorrian, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve(OIR), repeatedly stressed to the Pentagon press corps that Turkey had failed to coordinate with the coalition, needlessly killed members of vital partner forces in the fight against the Islamic State (IS), and endangered US troops.
Speaking by video link from Baghdad, Dorrian explained Turkey had contacted the Combined Air Operations Center (COAC) less than an hour before the strikes occurred (the COAC, located in Qatar, oversees US-led air operations throughout the Middle East).
Moreover, Turkey failed to consult the coalition, but merely notified it of the impending airstrikes, Dorrian complained.
“We let the Turks know that the amount of time” they provided was “inadequate” to ensure the safety of US troops. “We had forces within six miles of the strikes.”
Turkey also failed to delineate adequately where the attacks would occur, Dorrian noted, as he responded to a question from Kurdistan24.
They gave “a very large ops [operations] box,” which was too big “for us to assure that [our troops] were safe,” he stated.
Turkey merely said it would attack “terrorists,” Dorrian said.
Asked whether the US has received any assurances from Ankara this would not be repeated, the OIR spokesman replied tersely, “I’m not aware of any at this time.”
The US agrees with Turkey that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is a terrorist organization.
As Dorrian affirmed, the PKK should not be “anywhere in Iraq and Syria,” because “they’re a terrorist group.”
The difference between the US and Turkey arises over the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
On Tuesday morning, Turkish warplanes struck two targets.
One was a military position in the Sinjar (Shingal) area, and the strike killed six Peshmerga. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), responded with strong protests.
Turkish officials explained they had not meant to hit Peshmerga. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim both telephoned Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani to express their condolences.
The second Turkish attack, almost certainly, struck its intended target: the headquarters of the leadership of the YPG, which Turkey considers a terrorist group, because of its ties to the PKK.
The US military has the very opposite view. It considers the YPG its most valuable ally in Syria in the fight against IS.
The most obvious explanation for both the tardiness and vagueness of Turkey’s communication to the COAC about Tuesday’s strikes is that Ankara was concerned if it followed proper procedures, the US would block the strike or at least notify the YPG of the impending attack.
After all, how could the US receive information the headquarters of a valuable partner force was about to be bombed and do nothing?
On March 9, CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The committee chairman, Sen. John McCain, cautioned him then about Turkey’s opposition to the YPG.
Addressing Votel, McCain explained he had recently met with Erdogan in Ankara. “He is passionately opposed” to YPG involvement in the US plans to retake Raqqa, McCain said.
The very experienced senator—McCain has served in the US Congress since 1983—explained he was not sure the administration understood how strongly Erdogan felt about the YPG.
He also warned of “the possibility of an impending conflict” between Turkey and America’s partner force in Syria.
“Unless something changes, I foresee a train wreck here,” McCain concluded.
Dr. Aykan Erdemir, a former Turkish lawmaker and now a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington DC, suggested to Kurdistan24 another reason for the Turkish airstrikes.
Erdemir explained the assault was a way to divert attention “from the embarrassing electoral fraud allegations” surrounding the April 16 referendum which vastly expanded Erdogan’s power.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany