The US shot down an armed Turkish drone that flew too close to American ground forces in Syria on Thursday, the Pentagon said, in a rare instance of two NATO allies coming into open conflict with one another.
(Bloomberg) — The US shot down an armed Turkish drone that flew too close to American ground forces in Syria on Thursday, the Pentagon said, in a rare instance of two NATO allies coming into open conflict with one another.
A US F-16 fighter jet shot down the drone after it flew to within half a kilometer or US forces, Defense Department spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder said. He called it a “regrettable incident” and said there was no sign the drone planned to strike US troops.
A US official who asked not to be identified said American forces called their Turkish counterparts several times to warn about the presence of US troops in the area but got no response. Around the same time, Turkey targeted facilities run by US-backed Kurdish militant groups in northern Syria, according to state-run TRT television. Those strikes were in retaliation for a suicide-bomb attack by Kurdish militants in the Turkish capital over the weekend.
The shootdown adds to US-Turkey tensions that have been fanned by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s delays in allowing Sweden to enter NATO, amid other sore spots. Chief among those is the continued US backing for Kurdish militants that Turkey says are linked to terrorists.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke his Turkish counterpart after the drone shootdown and the two had a “fruitful conversation,” Ryder said. He said the US would never question Turkey’s right to defend itself and US forces are only in the region as part of a campaign to defeat the Islamic State.
Tracking the Feuds Plaguing the U.S.-Turkey Alliance: QuickTake
Turkey has long asked Washington to stop arming and training YPG militants while the US warned Turkey against unilateral airstrikes that could pose a threat to American personnel working with Syrian partners to defeat the Islamic State.
(Updates throughout with comment from Pentagon spokesman.)
More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.