U.S. shoots down Turkish drone approaching U.S. troops in Syria
A view of the Pentagon in Washington D.C., U.S., August 27, 2023. /CFP
A view of the Pentagon in Washington D.C., U.S., August 27, 2023. /CFP

A view of the Pentagon in Washington D.C., U.S., August 27, 2023. /CFP

The U.S. Department of Defense said Thursday that the U.S. military shot down an armed Turkish drone as it came in proximity to U.S. forces in Syria earlier in the day.

Pentagon Press Secretary Pat Ryder said during a press briefing that U.S. commanders assessed that a Turkish unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flew "less than a half kilometer from U.S. forces" based in Syria.

U.S. F-16 fighters subsequently shot down the UAV "in self-defense" as the drone was deemed "a potential threat," Ryder said, adding that the Pentagon had "no indication that Türkiye was intentionally targeting U.S. forces."

A Turkish Defense Ministry official said the drone that was shot down did not belong to the Turkish armed forces, but did not say whose property it was.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke by phone with Turkish Defense Minister Yasar Guler to discuss the incident.

According to a readout of the phone call provided by Ryder, Austin urged his Turkish counterpart to commit to "de-escalation in northern Syria," stressing "the importance of maintaining strict adherence to de-confliction protocols and communication through established military-to-military channels."

"The Secretary acknowledged Türkiye's legitimate security concerns and affirmed his commitment to close coordination between the United States and Türkiye to prevent any risk to U.S. forces," the readout said.

The Turkish Defense Ministry said on social media platform X that its minister Yasar Guler had told Austin that "Türkiye is ready for a joint fight with the USA against Daesh."

"Both Ministers emphasized the importance of close coordination of U.S. and Turkish elements in activities carried out in the region," it added.

The incident marked a rare use of force by the United States against one of its allies within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Adding to the controversy of the shoot-down is the fact that Washington not only counts on Ankara to help defeat the Islamic State extremist group in the Middle East but also relies on Türkiye's approval to bring Sweden into NATO.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the Turkish air force carried out a series of airstrikes targeting Kurdish militia positions in northern and eastern Syria on Thursday, hitting 24 targets and causing 15 casualties among the Kurdish fighters.

(With input from agencies)

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