US special forces in Northern Syria were moved from their location after Turkish artillery exploded near the unit.
No US forces were killed or injured in the explosion and Turkey’s defense military claimed it was ‘by mistake’ in a statement released Friday.
A contingent of U.S. Special Forces was caught up in Turkish shelling against U.S.-backed Kurdish positions in northern Syria, days after President Donald Trump told his Turkish counterpart he would withdraw U.S. troops from certain positions in the area. A senior Pentagon official said shelling by the Turkish forces was so heavy that the U.S. personnel considered firing back in self-defense.
Newsweek has learned through both an Iraqi Kurdish intelligence official and the senior Pentagon official that Special Forces operating on Mashtenour hill in the majority-Kurdish city of Kobani fell under artillery fire from Turkish forces conducting their so-called “Operation Peace Spring” against Kurdish fighters backed by the U.S. but considered terrorist organizations by Turkey. No injuries have been reported.
Instead of returning fire, the Special Forces withdrew once the shelling had ceased. Newsweek previously reported Wednesday that the current rules of engagement for U.S. forces continue to be centered around self-defense and that no order has been issued by the Pentagon for a complete withdrawal from Syria.
“In self-defense, reciprocal fire was opened on the terrorist positions of the attack. Turkey did not open fire at the U.S. observation post in any way,” the statement added. “All precautions were taken prior to opening fire in order to prevent any harm to the U.S. base. As a precaution, we ceased fire upon receiving information from the U.S. We firmly reject the claim that U.S. or Coalition forces were fired upon.”
A Pentagon official cast doubt on Turkey’s official statement and said the Turkish military knows the exact locations of US forces in Syria “down to the grid.”
“The Turkish military is fully aware, down to explicit grid-coordinate detail, of the locations of U.S. forces,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said. “Everyone if fully aware we are the United States military. We retain the right of self-defense.”
Trump recently pulled about 25 US troops out of posts along the Turkey-Syria border as the Turkish military was moving in to strike Kurdish fighters.
President Trump on Monday morning warned Turkey, a NATO ally, that he would destroy their economy if they did anything Trump “considers to be off” in a pair of tweets.
TRUMP: As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!). They must, with Europe and others, watch over the captured ISIS fighters and families. The U.S. has done far more than anyone could have ever expected, including the capture of 100% of the ISIS Caliphate. It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory. THE USA IS GREAT!
According to Reuters, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accepted Trump’s invitation to visit the White House next month.
‘President Trump has authorized a new EO giving the US Treasury, in consultation with Pompeo, significant new sanctions that can be targeted at any person associated with the government of Turkey,’ Mnuchin said on Friday.
The sanctions have not yet been activated.
President @realDonaldTrump has authorized a new executive order giving @USTreasury, in consultation with himself and @SecPompeo, significant new sanctions authorities that can be targeted at any person associated with the government of Turkey. pic.twitter.com/j0Zrd9MmB2
— The White House 45 Archived (@WhiteHouse45) October 11, 2019