Turkey-United States relations are strained, what started with the detention of an American pastor and the levying of tariffs has worsened after a serious breach of military operational security. This is especially significant given the two NATO members close military cooperation, an air base in Turkey, and coordinated training efforts.
In the most recent act of animosity, bordering on aggression, the Turkish state-sponsored Anadolu news agency published a highly specific report on the locations of U.S. military bases in Syria. The lengthy report also provided the number of coalition soldiers from various special operations groups located at each outpost. This included U.S. and French operators; all of the information was likely leaked because of not only the diplomatic and economic tensions but also the coalition’s support of the Kurdish YPG forces in Syria.
France 24’s Turkish correspondent, Jasper Mortimer, claims the leak was entirely intentional given Turkey‘s governmental oversight of Anadolu. Mortimer stated that, “It certainly was intentional. Anadolu agency is the hand-servant of the [Turkish] government. It would not have published this report without the green light from the top of government. War correspondents do not give the number of troops in the unit to which they are attached. That is seen as giving information to the enemy. But here, Anadolu agency appears to have done exactly that.”
The article titled, “US increases military posts supporting PKK/PYD in Syria,” advertises U.S. military locations within the Kurdish held territory in northern Syria. Turkey has a long history of conflict with the Kurds. The U.S.’s support of PYD (Democratic Union Party) and YPG (People’s Protection Units) has consistently angered Turkey given the organizations’ affiliation to the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), a labeled terrorist group.
The PYD is a governing political faction that maintains diplomatic oversight on the YPG; both also play a role in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that the United States-led coalition has utilized to great effect in the battle to eliminate the Islamic State. Mortimer claimed that, “Turkey sees the YPG as an affiliate of the PKK and Turkey has long called on Washington to withdraw support for them. But there’s a difference between calling on America to withdraw support and actually advertising the details of that support.” The report specifically said that “200 U.S. soldiers and 75 French special forces units,” were located just north of Raqqa in the town of Ayn Issah.
The U.S. Defense and State Departments were not happy in the least with the actions taken by Turkish media. Officials claim that the whole situation has put coalition lives in danger. Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said, “The release of sensitive military information exposes coalition forces to unnecessary risk and has the potential to disrupt ongoing operations to defeat ISIS,” to reporters during a press conference last week. The whole thing is just another straw on the camels back that is U.S.-Turkish diplomatic relations. How many more will it take to break them?