The US military says American troops were put at risk from a Turkish drone strike Tuesday on a base in Syria.
“We have received additional information that there was a risk to US Troops and personnel,” US Central Command said in a short statement on Wednesday. No US service members were injured in the strike, CENTCOM said. They declined to provide any further information on how many troops were put at risk or where they were located in relation to the attack.
On Wednesday, Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley spoke to his Turkish counterpart, Gen. Yasar Guler. The readout did not offer details of the conversation, but it says the two spoke about “several items of mutual strategic interest.”
A statement from Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder later on Wednesday said the strikes “directly threatened the safety of US personnel” working to defeat ISIS and to ensure custody “of more than ten thousand ISIS detainees.”
Ryder called for an “immediate de-escalation” on the Turkey-Syria border and said the Pentagon is “concerned” about reports about the “deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure.”
The base near Hasakah, Syria, is used by the US-led coalition to defeat ISIS and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF said two of their fighters were killed in the strike.
It’s significant that the US has publicly said American troops were put at risk, because Turkey is a NATO ally and a critical partner for the US in the region. At the same time, the SDF are also US partners and a play a key role in US-led coalition’s mission to defeat ISIS.
In the initial statement about the strike on Tuesday, CENTCOM spokesman Col. Joe Buccino said US troops were not at the base. In a statement on Tuesday Buccino said, “We oppose any military action that destabilizes the situation in Syria. These actions threaten our shared goals, including the continued fight against ISIS to ensure the group can never resurge and threaten the region.”
“Turkey does continue to suffer a legitimate terrorist threat, particularly to their south. They certainly have every right to defend themselves and their citizens,” said National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby on a call with reporters Tuesday. “What concerns us about cross-border operations remains the same … that it might force a reaction by some of our SDF partners that would limit or constrain their ability to fight against ISIS, and that’s what we’re doing on the ground with them.”