Turkey's Ground Offensive in Syria Caught Washington 'Off Guard'
Turkish leadership said that the ground offensive in northern Syria was carried out in coordination with the US-led anti-Daesh coalition but Ankara appears to have launched the military campaign, dubbed Operation Euphrates Shield, without giving Washington a heads up.
True, both sides discussed the possible operation months before it was launched. In fact, the Turks apparently raised the issue in June 2015, but the US "did not believe Turkey's plan [was] feasible," an unnamed senior military source told newspaper Hurriyet last week.
Turkey's plans were shelved when Russia launched its counterterrorism campaign in Syria in September 2015. The downing of a Russian bomber by the Turkish Air Force on November 24, 2015, was also a factor that prevented Ankara from giving the operation the green light.
Washington seems to have warmed up to the initiative in recent months, but the US wanted to remove Kurdish forces from the conflict area. The White House was ready to conduct a high-level meeting on the possible operation on August 24, the Wall Street Journal reported, but by that time Turkey had already launched the ground offensive.
"Ankara pulled the trigger on the mission unilaterally, without giving officials in Washington advance warning," the newspaper noted, adding that Turkey conducted its first airstrikes against targets in Syria alone.
The US decided to provide air cover to the Turkish forces only after it understood that Operation Euphrates Shield was underway.
The media outlet described what happened as a "breakdown in coordination" that the US chose to keep under wraps.
Early on August 24, the Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim issued a statement saying that Turkey launched an operation to free the Syrian city of Jarablus that involved "the Turkish Armed Forces and the International Coalition Air Forces," referring to the US warplanes.
Hours later an unnamed US official told Reuters that the US Air Force would provide air cover for Operation Euphrates Shield, adding that Washington was "in synch" with Ankara's initiative.
Apparently, this is not how it went down.
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