The U.S. Defense Secretary urges his Turkish counterpart to halt the escalation in northern Syria and emphasizes the importance of strict adherence to conflict avoidance protocols and communication through existing military channels.
The action taken by the U.S. military in shooting down a Turkish drone, which belonged to NATO member Turkey, over Syria, as it posed a potential threat to American forces there, marks a strong warning from Washington to Ankara not to escalate its military operations under the pretext of combating Kurdish rebels.
The U.S. Department of Defense announced that F-16 fighters shot down the Turkish drone on Thursday, at a time when the Turkish military was conducting airstrikes on Kurdish targets in northern Syria in response to a suicide bombing in Ankara last Sunday, claimed by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which Turkey and its Western allies classify as a terrorist organization.
Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder told reporters that U.S. forces observed Turkish drones carrying out airstrikes in northeastern Syria, some of them within a “prohibited operational area” near Al-Hasakah, about a kilometer away from U.S. forces. After a few hours, a Turkish drone returned to the prohibited area heading toward U.S. forces.
The spokesperson stated, “U.S. military leaders assessed that the drone, which was less than half a kilometer from U.S. forces, posed a potential threat, and based on that, U.S. F-16 fighters shot down the drone in self-defense.”
According to a statement from the Turkish Ministry of Defense, the two ministers discussed “the latest developments in Syria” and their “close coordination in the region.” The Turkish minister stated that “Turkey is ready for a joint battle with the United States against ISIS (the Islamic State).”
Turkey is expected to reconsider its plans for extensive military operations in northern Syria following the downing of its drone, similar to previous operations, especially in 2016. General Mazloum Abdi, the commander-in-chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), called on the international community to intervene to stop Turkish violations.
The United States deploys approximately 900 troops in Syria as part of the international coalition to combat the Islamic State, frequently conducting airstrikes targeting jihadists.
Ankara regularly conducts drone attacks in Syria in areas controlled by the Kurdish self-administration. Between 2016 and 2019, Turkey carried out three major operations in northern Syria against Kurdish forces and organizations.
Similar to northern Syria, the Turkish military conducts military operations in northern Iraq, prompting the Iraqi Defense Minister, Thabit Mohammed Al-Abbasi, to visit Ankara and discuss the security situation.
Turkish intervention in northern Syria and Iraq exacerbates the deteriorating security situation in both countries.