US carries out strikes near Syria’s al-Bab after Turkish criticism
AFP photoThe U.S. military said on Jan. 17 that it had carried out air strikes in Syria against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets of interest to both Washington and Ankara near the town of al-Bab, following Turkish criticism of insufficient U.S. support for its ground offensive.
U.S. Air Force Col. John Dorrian, a Baghdad-based spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition battling ISIL, counted four strikes in recent days against the jihadists’ targets that he said were in both countries’ “mutual interest.”
“We saw a window of opportunity where it was in our mutual interest to get those targets destroyed,” Reuters quoted Dorrian as saying, adding that the targets were identified by working with Turkey.
They included an armored personnel carrier and ISIL tactical units, he said.
“This is something we expect to continue doing. We strike [ISIL] targets anywhere in Syria or Iraq that they can be found,” Dorrian told reporters at the Pentagon.
Dorrian added the targets were “mutually developed” by the United States and Turkey. But the extent of U.S. support for Turkey’s actions on the ground around al-Bab remained unclear as part of the ongoing Euphrates Shield operation.
Turkey has been angered by U.S. policy in Syria, particularly Washington’s support for Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and fighters from its military wing, the People’s Protection Unit (YPG), which it sees as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighting within Turkey. Both Washington and Ankara classify the PKK as a terrorist organization.
Turkey has also accused Washington of failing to do enough to support its push to take al-Bab from ISIL even as the country provides the U.S.-led coalition with access to the İncirlik Air Base to stage operations in Syria.
Dorrian’s remarks came around two weeks after Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said on Jan. 3 that jets with the U.S.-led anti-ISIL coalition had backed the Turkish army operation near al-Bab in the past week but did not use weapons.
“Last week, there was a request... when some Turkish forces came under fire for air support and there were flights conducted by the coalition at that time,” Cook said.
“My understanding of that was there was not a strike specifically, but there were aircraft involved in that effort, a visible show of force if you will, by coalition aircraft,” he added.
Turkey launched the Euphrates Shield operation on Aug. 24, 2016, in order to clear its border with Syria of terrorist organizations which include ISIL and the PYD and YPG.