Pentagon warns Turkey against Syria ground invasion after strikes threaten US troops
The Pentagon is warning NATO member Turkey against a new military operation in Syria, after strikes in the country late last month endangered U.S. troops.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday spoke by phone with his Turkish counterpart, conveying his “strong opposition” to a new Turkish military operation in Syria, according to a Pentagon readout on the call.
Austin “expressed concern over escalating action in northern Syria and Turkey, including recent airstrikes, some of which directly threatened the safety of U.S. personnel who are working with local partners in Syria to defeat ISIS,” the readout said.
“Secretary Austin called for de-escalation, and shared the Department’s strong opposition to a new Turkish military operation in Syria.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last month launched airstrikes on northern Syria and Iraq targeting Kurdish groups in the two neighboring countries. Ankara claims the strikes are in retaliation for a Nov. 13 bombing in Istanbul that killed six people and injured 80 more, though the Kurdish groups have denied any involvement.
Erdoğan also suggested on Nov. 23 that he also plans to order a ground invasion into northern Syria.
The U.S. has notably partnered with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the effort to defeat ISIS in the region and continues to work with the group to keep the terrorist group at bay.
Since the Turkish strikes, the U.S. military is operating at a reduced number of partner patrols with the SDF, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters Thursday.
Ryder noted that while the U.S. recognizes Turkey’s security concerns, “the focus here is on preventing a destabilizing situation, which would put ISIS in an ability to reconstitute.”
He added that the U.S. has frequent and open lines of communication with its Turkish allies “at a variety of levels.”
“We did issue a statement highlighting the fact that a strike did come close to U.S. personnel, and we clearly have communicated that,” he said.