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American Forces Press Service

Turkish Airstrikes in Syria, Iraq Kill Partner Counter-ISIS Fighters

By Cheryl Pellerin DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, April 26, 2017 – Turkey conducted airstrikes this week in Syria and Iraq that killed partner forces in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, giving little notice and making no effort to coordinate the strikes, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve said today.

Air Force Col. John Dorrian briefed Pentagon reporters via teleconference from Baghdad.

"Turkey conducted airstrikes in northern Syria's Hasakah province the night before last, resulting in the loss of life of our partnered forces in the fight against ISIS," Dorrian said. Partner forces in Syria include the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian Arab Coalition, he said.

The Turkish air force notified the Combined Air Operations Center less than an hour before conducting the strikes, "and this was notification -- certainly not coordination as you would expect from a partner and an ally in the fight against ISIS," the colonel told reporters.

Dorrian said the coalition let the Turks know that the amount of time provided before the strikes was inadequate to assure the safety of forces on the ground. The coalition had forces within six miles of the strikes, he added, but none were put in harm's way by the strikes.

"It was an unsafe way to conduct operations," Dorrian said. "It's a very complex battlefield here, and we just want to make sure that coordination is done so we can get these things right and prevent the types of incidents that we saw here, which included the killing of peshmerga soldiers in the Sinjar area [of Iraq]."

Partner Deaths in Iraq

The Turkish air force conducted more airstrikes last night near the northern Iraq town of Sinjar, killing five Kurdish peshmerga fighters, Dorrian said, adding that these strikes also were conducted without proper coordination with the coalition or the Iraqi government. "We're troubled by that," he said.

No extensive discussions have taken place with Turkey about the strikes, Dorrian said. "But I know that there has been a significant amount of diplomatic activity between the two sides since that occurred," he told reporters.

Partner forces in both Syria and Iraq have been integral in fighting ISIS, Dorrian said. "They've been reliable in making progress against ISIS fighters under very difficult and dangerous conditions," he said. "They have made many, many sacrifices to help defeat ISIS, and that keeps the whole world safer."

The coalition calls on all forces to remain focused on the fight to defeat ISIS, he said, which is the greatest threat to regional and worldwide peace and security.

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