U.S. Warns Against Further Attacks in Northeast Syria
WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – The U.S.-led Coalition against ISIS, formally known as Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), issued a statement on Friday that implied significant tensions have emerged with Turkey, although the outcome of the current situation remains to be seen.
The CJTF-OIR statement described “multiple uncoordinated air strikes” that were “conducted in close proximity of U.S. forces in Syria” over the previous 24 hours.
That statement was reference to Turkish air strikes on Thursday, which U.S. commanders deemed a significant threat, because the strikes came within less than half a kilometer of U.S. troops.
So they called in an F-16, and the fighter jet shot down the armed drone that was carrying out the strikes.
The attack by the F-16 on the Turkish drone was without precedent. It marked the first time that one NATO country deliberately downed an aircraft from another NATO country.
Later that day, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, spoke with his Turkish counterpart, Yasar Guler, while the Secretary of State spoke with his Turkish counterpart on Friday.
The U.S. summaries of those discussions described them in unremarkable, straightforward terms, suggesting a desire to reduce tensions and reach agreement.
“Following today’s incident, Secretary Austin also urged de-escalation in northern Syria and the importance of maintaining strict adherence to de-confliction protocols and communication through established military-to-military channels,” the U.S. read-out of his conversation with Guler said.
“Both leaders reiterated our shared commitment to defeating ISIS,” it continued, while “the Secretary acknowledged Turkey’s legitimate security concerns and affirmed his commitment to close coordination between the United States and Turkey to prevent any risk to U.S. forces or the Global Coalition’s Defeat-ISIS Mission in northeast Syria.”
Similarly, when Blinken spoke with Fidan, they “underscored that the United States and Turkey share a common objective of defeating terrorist threats,” according to the U.S. summary of the discussion between the two senior diplomats.
“Regardless of where the threats are based—in Syria, Iraq, or elsewhere—they undermine the security of the United States, Turkey, and our Allies,” it continued.
Turkish Strikes Continue
However, Ankara struck a more defiant tone. An AFP story, reported out of Istanbul, said that Fidan had told Blinken that “Turkey’s counter-terrorism operations in Iraq and Syria will continue with determination.”
According to subsequent reports from Turkey, its forces did launch a significant number of further attacks in Syria, although, apparently, not in Iraq. The U.S. had urged coordination between Ankara and Baghdad regarding any counter-terrorist operations in Iraq, and on Thursday Iraq’s Defense Minister was in Ankara, where he met with Guler.
On Friday, Turkey “attacked 15 terrorist YPG/PKK targets,” Turkish media reported. Citing Turkey’s Defense Ministry, it claimed that the “aerial strikes destroyed terrorist YPG/PKK's shelters, depots and so-called bases in northern Syria.”
Turkey’s continued military operations likely prompted Friday’s statement from the anti-ISIS Coalition. “We oppose actions which threaten regional stability and security; jeopardize the safety of our forces, partner forces, and the civilian population; and distract from our shared commitment to the enduring defeat of Daesh,” it said.
Still, at this point, it remains to be seen, if Turkish strikes in northeast Syria will continue or not, and if they do continue, what the response of the U.S. and others will be.
Finally, the CJTF-OIR statement concluded with a significant warning: “We reserve our inherent right to self-defense any time when faced with threats that place our forces in harm’s way.”