Turkey’s state-run news agency has published a detailed map of U.S. military bases in northern Syria, putting U.S. forces fighting against the Islamic State in jeopardy and eating away at the alliance with NATO’s only Muslim member Turkey.
The U.S. said it has no plans to adjust security measures for its bases in Syria, despite the leaks of information on their locations, a U.S. Department of Defense spokesperson told The Globe Post on Wednesday.
On July 18, Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu published a report providing specific details about two U.S. air bases and eight military points in the north of Syria. The publication stated that the military posts were “supporting PKK/PYD in Syria.” In addition, the publication provided locations of U.S. Special Forces.
Turkey and the U.S. regard the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as a terrorist organization. Ankara claims that the Democratic Union Party (PYD) is the PKK’s offshoot in Syria and poses a security threat for Turkey.
The U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition, however, supports Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). This alliance of militias includes Syrian Kurdish fighters – People’s Protection Units (YPG) – outlawed by Turkey over its links to the PKK.
Because of this baking, the U.S. and Turkey have been involved in heated debates over the operation to reclaim the city of Raqqa, self-proclaimed capital of ISIS. In May, U.S. President Donald J. Trump approved a plan to supply the YPG with heavier arms for the offensive on the terrorists’ stronghold. The strategy outraged Ankara.
“We cannot be a party to such a policy. We cannot support you. We find cooperation with a terrorist group to free Raqqa wrong… We told them [the Trump administration] to ignore terrorist groups and join us to combat terrorism. Unfortunately, they failed to agree,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in May.
During the same month, Mr. Erdogan’s chief aide Ilnur Cevik made threatening remarks against the Coalition forces. He claimed that Turkish rockets may “accidentally” hit U.S. armored vehicles “if they go too far” while patrolling the Turkish-Syrian border. The Coalition called the comments “irresponsible and unacceptable.”
Editor-in-Chief of War On The Rocks, Ryan Evans, told The Globe Post that the decision of the Turkish authorities to leak details on U.S. military bases in an active warzone was “a grotesque act of betrayal.”
“I worry that Erdogan is prepared to drown Turkey in problems it has itself created. As someone who loves Turkey and the Turkish people, I am dismayed,” he said.
The U.S. military typically does not disclose the locations of its or Coalition forces for operational security reasons.
“The release of sensitive military information exposes Coalition forces to unnecessary risk and has the potential to disrupt ongoing operations to defeat ISIS,” Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told The Globe Post.
The spokesperson added that the U.S. has conveyed its concerns to the Turkish government.
“While we cannot independently verify the sources that contributed to this story, we would be very concerned if officials from a NATO ally would purposefully endanger our forces by releasing sensitive information,” Mr. Pahon noted.
The Pentagon underscored that ISIS is the greatest threat to stability in the region and urged all parties operating in Syria to remain focused on defeating the group.
In April, Turkish fighter jets bombed Syrian Kurdish targets, and gave only 20-minute advance notice, putting U.S. troops at risk and drawing sharp rebuke from Washington.On Thursday, President Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in a press conference that the Turkish government played no role in the Anadolu’s report.
On Thursday, President Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in a press conference that the Turkish government played no role in the Anadolu’s report.
“A government role in the story regarding the location of U.S. bases in Syria is out of the question. It is unthinkable for us to endanger the lives of any country’s soldiers, and we expect the same from other countries,” he stated.
Coincidentally, the links to the Anadolu’s English language articles about the bases stopped loading. Clicking on the controversial U.S. bases story on Anadolu’s website simply yielded a blank page. The news report about Pentagon’s reaction to the news agency’s previous story also brings up a blank page.