Given the bizarre tapestry of allies and enemies currently fighting in and around Syria I suppose this was bound to happen sooner or later. We had a few close calls earlier in the summer when Turkey was shelling some Kurdish positions which were close to the location of American advisors, but now it’s gone to the next level. Turkish backed rebels have fired on U.S. troops fighting ISIS in Syria. (CNN)
US troops in northern Syria came under direct attack last week by Turkish-backed rebels, a military official with the coalition fighting ISIS told CNN Tuesday. The official said that while US troops returned fire there were no casualties on either side.
The coalition believes the attackers are part of the Turkish-backed opposition forces, a loose grouping of Arab and Turkmen fighters that have helped the Turkish military clear ISIS from the Turkish-Syria border area.
Many of these Turkey-supported forces originated as part of the opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and they have also clashed with the US-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in a struggle for influence in the region.
Nobody was injured on either side, thankfully, but it almost seems like it’s a matter of time at this point. Turkey is ostensibly our ally, but Recep Tayyip Erdogan is basically at war with the Kurds. The Kurds are receiving our support because they’re one of the primary forces on the ground that’s been able to take on ISIS on their own turf aside from the Iraqi regular army. That puts us in a three way battle which can wind up at crossed purposes.
Then there’s Russia, who is also supposedly fighting ISIS and helping Turkey, but our relationship with them is less than stellar at this point. There are also questions about Russia’s long term goals which seem to include establishing a permanent presence in the region using the trouble in Syria as a pretense. Half of these partners seem to want Assad gone while the rest want to keep him in power.
We actually had reports of attacks on U.S. troops a couple of weeks ago, but sorting out which sets of rebels are on which side can be a chore at times. And of course there are still Syrian forces all over the area. Honestly, it’s a wonder that this hasn’t happened sooner.