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US: Turkey gave less than 1 hour notice before Syria strikes

By TARA COPP | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 26, 2017

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon on Wednesday criticized Turkish airstrikes in northern Syria and Iraq that the United States said put American forces on the ground at risk.

Turkey notified the United States that it would attack a wide area north of the Syrian city of Raqqa “less than an hour” before launching the airstrikes Tuesday, said Air Force Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve.

At least five Peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq and “many” Syrian Democratic Forces in northern Syria were killed in Tuesday’s airstrikes, Dorrian said, without specifying the number of Syrian forces killed.

Both groups have been close partners to U.S. and coalition efforts to fight the Islamic State.

Turkey views some of the Syrian Kurdish forces assisting the U.S.-led coalition’s campaign against ISIS as terrorists, and in a statement Wednesday, the spokesman for Turkey’s foreign ministry, Huseyin Muftuoglu, defended the strikes.

The ministry said coalition and Russian forces were given proper notification and warned “to stay clear” of a roughly 20-mile zone from Turkey’s border where it would target “terrorist organization positions, training camps and areas of activity.”

“Our resolve to retaliate [against] the terrorist organization’s cross border attacks carried out from northern Iraq and northern Syria targeting our border and national security had clearly been expressed,” the ministry’s statement said.

Turkey did not coordinate the strikes with the coalition and said in the statement that it was targeting Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, fighters who Turkey considers a terrorist threat. Turkey is a member of the coalition and a NATO ally, and the United States has relied on its air bases to launch its fighter and support aircraft.

However, there were U.S. forces in the area at the time of Turkey’s notification, Dorrian said.

“We let the Turks know that the amount of time that was being provided for the strikes was inadequate for us to ensure the safety of our forces on the ground,” he said. “We had forces within six miles of the strikes.”

Since the airstrikes, there “have been significant amounts of diplomatic activity between the two sides,” Dorrian said.

“This was notification, certainly not coordination that we would expect from a partner and an ally,” he said.

copp.tara@stripes.com
Twitter: @TaraCopp

U.S. Air Force Col. John Dorrian, Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman, addresses the media during a joint press conference at Makhmur, Iraq, Nov. 1, 2016.
IAN RYAN/U.S. ARMY

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