The Pentagon said on Wednesday that Türkiye’s recent airstrikes in northern Syria threatened the safety of US military personnel, and that the escalating situation was jeopardizing years of progress against Islamic State militants.
These public comments represent the sharpest US condemnation of Türkiye’s air operations against Kurdish militants in northern Syria to date.
“The latest airstrikes in Syria directly threaten the safety of US military personnel who are working in Syria with local partners to defeat the Islamic State group and maintain the detention of more than 10,000 ISIS detainees,” Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder said in a statement.
He added that the United States recognized Türkiye’s “legitimate security concerns”.
And he added, “An immediate calm is necessary in order to maintain focus on the mission of defeating the Islamic State and to ensure the safety and security of the military on the ground who are committed to the mission of defeating the organization”.
The United States has about 900 soldiers in Syria, mainly in the northeast, working with the Syria Democratic Forces, which are led by Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units, to fight the remnants of the Islamic State.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Ankara’s air operations were only the beginning and that it would launch a ground operation when appropriate after escalating retaliatory strikes.
Ankara launched air operations over the weekend in response to a bomb attack in Istanbul a week ago that killed six people, which it blamed on the YPG.
No group has claimed responsibility, and the PKK and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) have denied involvement.
Türkiye has previously made military incursions into Syria to target the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), considering it a wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Türkiye, the United States and the European Union classify as a terrorist group.
This isn’t the first time that Turkish operations in northern Syria threaten the US military.
In 2019, US forces in the region came under artillery fire from Turkish positions while Ankara launched an offensive against Kurdish militants allied with the US at the time.