Turkey Strikes Iraq Near Peshmerga Training Base, Narrowly Missing American Soldiers

AFP/Getty Image
AFP/Getty Image

The U.S.-Turkey coalition appears already in trouble, even before American F-16s take to the Syrian skies out of Turkey to fly anti-ISIS missions. The Turkish military allegedly only gave Americans ten minutes to leave the site of an imminent airstrike on alleged PKK territory in Iraq.

“We were outraged,” a military source told Fox News of the airstrike. “A Turkish officer came into the CAOC, and announced that the strike would begin in 10 minutes and he needed all allied jets flying above Iraq to move south of Mosul immediately,” he added. American soldiers barely had time to clear the target area with their Kurdish allies before Turkish planes began heir attack.

Kurdish outlet Rudaw adds that the U.S. Special Forces in the area were there to kept train Kurdish Peshmerga forces. The Peshmerga are part of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq, under President Masoud Barzani, and are generally not considered allies of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) or the Syrian People’s Protection Units (YPG and YPJ), both of Marxist persuasion. Barzani has asked the PKK to leave Iraq completely, arguing that their presence is attracting Turkish military attacks that are putting civilian Kurds’ lives in danger. Now, it appears, Peshmerga themselves are also under fire.

Fox News notes that the United States has formally lodged a complaint with the Turkish government over the Iraqi airstrikes with a diplomatic note.

The report follows testimony from one Peshmerga fighter, who tells The Telegraph he left his hometown to fight the Islamic State in an attempt to save his family from the Islamist terror group’s wrath, only to come home and find Turkish planes had bombed his town out of existence and killed his family. Attacks on Peshmerga are particularly surprising due to Barzani’s protests against the PKK and apparent support for Turkey’s campaign.

In a speech Tuesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey vowed to continue airstrikes “until not one terrorist remains within our borders.” He once again emphasized he had no interest in peace talks with “terrorists”– seemingly both the PKK and ISIS: “I’m not talking about laying down arms, I’m talking about burying them. I’d like to emphasize this.” Turkish airstrikes on Tuesday appeared to continue the trend of the past week, targeting 17 alleged PKK positions, but with little word regarding the campaign’s effectiveness against the Islamic State.

Statements this week also seem to attempt to downplay any tensions between the United States and the Turkish military. The Pentagon issued a statement on Monday noting that they believed Turkey had made a “firm commitment” to fighting ISIS, and that “The U.S. and Turkey are finalizing technical details for Turkey’s full inclusion in these coalition operations.” There is no mention in Turkish media on the part of American officials of the incident detailed by Fox News.