Turkey, a member of the international coalition against the Islamic State, requested air support when its air force came under fire, but the U.S.-led alliance did not carry out strikes and provided a “visible show of force” instead, according to the Pentagon.
Nevertheless, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook stressed during a press conference Tuesday:
We are coordinating carefully our effort against ISIL. Our comprehensive effort against ISIL, we want to continue to apply pressure on ISIL on as many fronts as possible and we’re trying to do that in the most efficient and effective way possible.
We’re trying to de-conflict issues in the area as well, as you know. And so we’ll continue to have that conversation. And we see the very significant efforts that the Turkish military is engaging in in Syria, the sacrifice of Turkish forces in Syria; the significant sacrifices.
And obviously, supportive of everything they’re doing to try and take on ISIL. And the coalition is as well.
The U.S. military has been coordinating with Russia for “deconfliction” in Syria and, at least at one point, has deemed Syrian territory under the Islamic State’s control to be the responsibility of the Russian alliance, not the American coalition.
“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,” Cook told Pentagon reporters. “And we continue to talk with the government of Turkey about the appropriate level of support for the efforts there in al-Bab and that’s an ongoing conversation, even happening today.”
Some evidence suggests Turkey is working closer with Russia on combating ISIS in Syria than with the United States, at least in al-Bab.
Nevertheless, Cook denied those allegations, saying, “I’m not aware of specific Turkish-Russian cooperation in al-Bab and I’ll leave that to Turkey and Russia to speak to.”
Reuters acknowledges that the U.S.-led coalition has hesitated to provide support to NATO member Turkey for its efforts to seize al-Bab.
The news outlet points out:
Rebels supported by Turkish troops have laid siege to al-Bab for weeks under the “Euphrates Shield” operation launched by Turkey nearly four months ago to sweep the Sunni Muslim hardliners and Kurdish fighters from its Syrian border.
NATO allies the U.S. and Turkey have found themselves on opposite sides of an ongoing Turkish military operation near northern Syria.
Turkey has been backing the Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels, who have received military assistance from America and have been fighting against the U.S.-allied Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria.