Turkey Shells U.S. Special Forces in Syria by Mistake

In this photo taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria, in Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, smoke billows from targets in Tel Abyad, Syria, during bombardment by Turkish forces, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

That’s gratitude for ya. No sooner does Trump oblige Turkey by pulling the few U.S. soldiers positioned along the border back to safety when the Turkish forces promptly directed artillery fire on their positions.



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.

Erdogan isn’t stupid and he knows better than to deliberately provoke an American response. But aren’t U.S. positions marked on some map somewhere?


The Pentagon official said that Turkish forces should be aware of U.S. positions “down to the grid.” The official could not specify the exact number of personnel present, but indicated they were “small numbers below company level,” so somewhere between 15 and 100 troops. Newsweek has reached out to the Pentagon for comment on the situation.

It may not have been deliberate, but it demonstrates that the Turks are of no mind to be careful to avoid civilian areas. This is exactly what Trump and the EU have been warning against and it remains to be seen if the threatened economic sanctions against Turkey actually materialize.

But the humanitarian catastrophe of adding hundreds of thousands of refugees in a nation that already has 11 million internal and external refugees cannot be underestimated. Erdogan’s war against the Kurds may not intentionally be genocidal, but the result may very well be just that.


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