U.S. Says Turkish Air Strikes In Syria Put American Troops At Risk

Syrian Kurdish fighters stand on debris of a building destroyed as a result of Turkish airstrikes. Photo: AFP

The United States has said recent Turkish air strikes in northern Syria put U.S. soldiers at risk, reiterating its concerns over Turkey’s bombardment of a U.S.-backed Kurdish group and calling on Ankara to focus on the goal of fighting ISIS.

Mark Toner, U.S. State Department spokesperson, told a daily press briefing that the U.S. government “at very high levels” made “very clear” to the Turkish government at “our deep concern” about the airstrikes on Syrian Kurdish YPG militias.

“Not only were they not fully coordinated – or not coordinated within the coalition, but they put, frankly, U.S. soldiers at risk who were operating in that area, but also resulted in the deaths of Iraqi Peshmerga, who were fighting on the ground,” Mr. Toner said.

Turkish jets bombarded Syrian Kurdish militants in northern Syria, drawing criticism from world powers, including the U.S., who expressed “deep concerns” over Turkey’s strikes in Syria. Turkey simultaneously hit PKK rebels in Sinjar, accidentally killing at least 5 Peshmerga fighters.

The spokesperson said the U.S. is going to press Turkey that all of the forces fighting ISIS in that region need to focus on the goal of fighting ISIS. Acknowledging Turkey’s concerns about the YPG — Turkey regards it as a terrorist group — Mr. Toner said Washington disagrees with the Turks.

“But we’re making very clear to them that they need to fully coordinate with us and other coalition members going forward,” he added.

Turkey gave only 20 minutes notice before hitting Syrian Kurdish militants this week, alarming Pentagon about the safety of U.S. troops in the region. A spokesman for the anti-ISIS fight in Syria and Iraq, Col. John Dorrian, told reporters on Wednesday that Turkey described a large area and wasn’t specific enough about timing and location. He added that the U.S. troops were about 6 miles from the strikes.

“We let the Turks know that the amount of time that was being provided for the strikes was inadequate for us to assure the safety of our forces on the ground,” Mr. Dorrian noted.

On Thursday, State Department spokesman said Syria was an “extremely complex battle space” and the lack of coordination during Turkish air strikes put even U.S. soldiers at risk.

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