US troops in Syria were nearly struck by Turkish artillery barrages that came dangerously close
Turkish artillery fire nearly hit a small group US troops stationed near the Kurdish-held city of Kobane on Friday afternoon, according to multiple media reports.
The report comes hours after senior US military officials addressed concerns of a disconnect between Turkish and US forces, amid the offensive that the Turkey has dubbed Operation Peace Spring.
“The Turkish military is fully aware, down to explicit grid coordinate detail, of the locations of US forces, and we have been in coordination with them,” US Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Friday morning.
The Defense Department confirmed that artillery fire originating from “Turkish positions” at around 9:00 p.m. exploded “within a few hundred meters” from an area known to have US troops.
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Turkish artillery fire nearly struck a small group US troops stationed near the Kurdish-held city of Kobani on Friday afternoon, according to multiple media reports.
A senior Pentagon official said US troops considered returning fire because the barrage was heavy, according to Newsweek, which first reported on the incident. An Iraqi Kurdish intelligence official also confirmed the incident to Newsweek and CNN also reported about the events.
No US troops were injured in the shelling, which initial reports suggested were three artillery rounds, according to CBS correspondent Margaret Brennan.
On Friday evening, the Defense Department confirmed that artillery fire originating from “Turkish positions” exploded “within a few hundred meters” from an area known to have US troops at around 9:00 p.m. local time.
“The US demands that Turkey avoid actions that could result in immediate defensive action,” US Navy Capt. Brook DeWalt said in a statement.
The report comes hours after senior US military officials addressed concerns of a disconnect between Turkish and US forces, amid an offensive that Turkey has dubbed Operation Peace Spring. Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that roughly 50 US troops were moved out of the immediate vicinity of the Turkish assault against Kurdish forces, and that the US military would be “repositioning additional forces in the region to assist with force protection as necessary.”
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“The Turkish military is fully aware, down to explicit grid coordinate detail, of the locations of US forces, and we have been in coordination with them,” Milley said on Friday morning.
Milley added that the US would “retain the right of self-defense, and our soldier, sailors, airmen and Marines will defend themselves.”
Turkey’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement that its outposts were attacked by mortar fire originating from about 1,000 meters away from a US observation post. The ministry claimed it responded in “self-defense” and reciprocated. It added that Turkish forces immediately stopped firing after receiving information from the US about the proximity of the attack.
“Turkey did not open fire at the US observation post in any way,” Turkey’s Defense Ministry said. “All precautions were taken prior to opening fire in order to prevent any harm to the US base.”
“That’s clear and it’s unambiguous with anybody,” he said.
The alleged artillery strike comes during Turkey’s assault into northeastern Syria, which began earlier this week. As thousands of US-backed Kurds are fighting against Islamic State militants in the region, nearby Turkey has long cited the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, and the majority-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces as terrorist threats with links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. The PKK is a Turkey-based rebel group that has been designated as a terrorist organization by the US and Turkey.
Trump made the decision to withdraw US troops, who informally acted as a buffer between Kurdish forces and Turkey, from northern Syria on Sunday following a call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Trump reasoned it was “time for us to get out” from the region after years of battling ISIS, and that it fell upon Turkey and European allies to take over security.
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