US Says Turkey Conducted ‘Unsafe’ Air Strikes in Syria, Killing US Partners

Susan Jones | April 27, 2017 | 6:58am EDT
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In this photo provided by the Kurdish fighters of the People's Protection Units (YPG),Kurdish fighters of the YPG sit on their pickup in the town of Ein Eissa, north of Raqqa city, Syria (Photo from YPG units via AP)

( – With less than an hour’s notice to the U.S.-led coalition, Turkey, a U.S. NATO ally, conducted airstrikes in northern Syria on Monday night, killing “a significant number” of Kurdish YPG fighters, who have been “very important to the fight against ISIS,” Air Force Col. John Dorrian, the spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday.

Then on Tuesday, the Turkish Air Force conducted air strikes near Sinjar, Iraq “without proper coordination with the coalition or the government of Iraq,” Dorrian said. Five Kurdish Peshmerga fighters were killed there.

“We're troubled by that,” Dorrian said. “We call on all forces to remain focused on the fight to defeat ISIS.”

The Kurds are now engaged in what Dorrian called a “relentless campaign” to isolate Raqqa, and although he would not say much about the Turkish air strikes, he was blunt in what he did say:

I'm saying that less than an hour of notification is an inadequate amount of time to have our forces leave the ops (operations) box area that was identified -- which was a very large ops box, not enough fidelity for us to assure that they were safe.

So it was an unsafe way to conduct operations. It's a very complex battle field here. And we just want to make sure that coordination is done so that we can get these things right and prevent the types of incident's that we saw here, which included the killing of Peshmerga soldiers in Sinjar area.

Dorrian said the U.S. had troops in Syria, within six miles of the Turkish air strikes, and “we let the Turks know that the amount of time that was being provided for the strikes was inadequate for us assure safety of our forces on the ground.”

He also said there has been “a significant amount of diplomatic activity” between the U.S. and Turkey since the airstrikes.

Pressed on how much advance notice Turkey gave the U.S., Dorrian said it was “less than an hour. He said it was done more as a “notification as opposed to coordination.”

Turkey said it was targeting members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which it considers a terrorist group and an extension of the YGP militias.

“We acknowledge that there are PKK in some areas of Iraq and northern Syria,” Dorrian told reporters. “What we're saying is that these strikes didn't provide adequate time and coordination to assure that that's who's being struck. So, the Syrian Democratic Forces (which include YPG) were struck. This is a force that's been instrumental in defeating ISIS in many areas all around Syria; and then, of course, the unfortunate death of several Peshmerga fighters in Iraq.

“And Iraq's sovereignty was also not respected here. We believe that every force that's fighting terrorism in Iraq should be doing so in coordination and with the agreement and cooperation of the government of Iraq. And that's not what happened here.”

Turkey reportedly believes that weapons provided to Peshmerga fighters by the U.S.-led coalition are finding their way to PKK operatives inside Turkey.

“Well, to be clear, we provide weapons and equipment to the Syrian Arab Coalition, not the YPG,” Dorrian said. “These are forces that have proven reliable. We haven't seen them threaten Turkey at all. We've seen them fight ISIS.”

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