NATO Ally Turkey Threatens to Reveal More Top-Secret Details About U.S. Special Forces in Syria
Yesterday, Turkish state media outlet Anadolu Agency published details on the location of U.S. special operations forces operating in Syria, complete with maps and troop concentrations, prompting outrage from the Pentagon.
But early today, a newspaper owned by a loyalist of Turkish President Recep Erdogan threatened to reveal more details, provoking an escalating confrontation between the U.S. and our NATO ally.
The threats were published in today's edition of Takvim, owned by businessman Ahmet Calik (a close friend of Erdogan). The CEO of the company that owns the paper is none other than Erdogan's son-in-law.
The controversy erupted yesterday when Anadolu Agency published a map of U.S. bases in Syria:
Bloomberg Politics reported:
Turkey’s state-run news agency published U.S. base locations in northern Syria, a move that threatens to deepen distrust between the two allies by exposing American soldiers on the front lines of the fight against Islamic State.
In reports published in both Turkish and English on Tuesday, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency provided detailed information about 10 U.S. bases in northern Syria, including troop counts and a map of the U.S. force presence in the Turkish version. The reports said that the military outposts are “usually hidden for security reasons, making it hard to be detected.” It said they were located “in the terrorist PKK/PYD-held Syrian territories,” a reference to Kurdish groups that Turkey’s government considers terrorist organizations.
Despite a tight military alliance dating back to the Cold War, Turkey and the U.S. have been at odds for years now over the U.S. backing of Kurdish fighters in Syria who are affiliated with separatist movements inside Turkey. The Turkish government probably leaked U.S. troop locations to Anadolu as retaliation, according to Aaron Stein, a fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington.
“The U.S. takes force protection seriously, obviously,” Stein said by email on Wednesday. “The Turkish government knows this, and still decided to leak the locations of U.S. bases in Syria. Hard not to see this as a F-you.”
The Pentagon responded by saying that the move put U.S. troops in danger and jeopardized the coalition mission against ISIS:
The publication by Turkey's state-run news agency of the locations of what appeared to be U.S. military posts in Syria puts American forces in danger, and the United States has complained to Turkey, a NATO ally, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.
Anadolu news agency published a report on Tuesday naming the location of 10 U.S. military posts in northern Syria, in some cases detailing the number of U.S and French troops present.
"The release of sensitive military information exposes Coalition forces to unnecessary risk and has the potential to disrupt ongoing operations to defeat ISIS," said Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon, using an acronym for Islamic State.
"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," Pahon said.
Anadolu Agency appeared to mock the Pentagon's response late last night:
The information about the U.S. bases was pushed across pro-Erdogan media in Turkish, English, and Arabic:
Erdogan and other top Turkish authorities have become vocally belligerent towards their fellow NATO allies in recent months, even threatening "holy wars" in Europe:
Remarkably, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Turkey just last week:
Several possible factors may be contributing to this escalation by Turkey.
First, they may be trying to dislodge U.S. support for Kurdish forces, which Turkey brands as terrorists:
Secondly, Turkey was most likely aware that the U.S. was going to stop CIA support for Turkish-backed Syrian rebel groups (announced yesterday).
Thirdly, Erdogan would like the U.S. to extradite his perceived rival, Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in a compound in Pennsylvania and whom Erdogan blames for launching an aborted coup last year.
Since the coup, Erdogan has purged his opponents from the Turkish government and imprisoned more journalist than any other country in the world.
And as I reported here at PJ Media last September, there have been confrontations between U.S. forces in Syria and Turkish troops.
A NATO ally going rogue against the U.S. and European allies in one of the most volatile regions in the world is a grim prospect, especially with hundreds of U.S. troops on the ground and one of our most important air bases in the region potentially at risk (reportedly 60-80 nuclear weapons are housed at Incirlik).
It's hard to believe that just a few years ago the U.S. media cartel was promoting Turkey and Erdogan as a model of democracy for the rest of the Middle East.
The open hostility of our NATO ally proves our Turkish partners are growing more unstable and unreliable. The moves in recent days are intentionally provocative and potentially dangerous to our troops operating against ISIS in Syria. It remains to be seen if this situation will escalate further.