- Turkey’s state-run news agency has leaked the locations of secret US bases in Northern Syria.
- US bases in question are located on territory controlled by the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG.
- Turkey has been openly hostile to the YPG, accusing it of being linked to the PKK, the terrorist organization of Kurds living in Turkey.
- It has repeatedly slammed the US for choosing to cooperate with the YPG in the Syrian Civil War, including by arming it to tackle ISIS.
- Turkish state media report mentions the locations of US soldiers as well as French special forces in the YPG-controlled part of Syria, and the capacities of the secret bases.
- US government has condemned the Turkish leak, saying it could put the lives of the US troops in unnecessary danger.
Turkey’s state news agency Anadolu has published a news report and an infographic revealing the locations of secret US military bases in the areas held by the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG in Northern Syria in a development likely to worsen US-Turkish ties.
Turkey’s National Security earlier this week slammed the United States for providing weapons to the armed militia of the Syrian Kurds, the YPG, which makes up the bulk of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The Syrian Democratic Forces, and the YPG, respectively, have been a major US ally on the ground fighting the ISIS terrorist group (“Islamic State in Iraq and Syria”). They have recently besieged the ISIS capital Raqqa, and breached the ISIS defenses.
The forces of the Syrian Kurds have emerged as more and more important in the ongoing Syrian Civil War, as has their mutual enmity with Turkey, as US President Donald Trump decided to arm them so they can conquer Raqqa.
In the ongoing civil war in Syria, Turkey backs a rebel group that it has been sponsoring, the Free Syrian Army. It has repeatedly offered the United States to recognize and switch its support to the Free Syrian Army, rather than the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (which also include the Syrian Arab Coalition (SAC) fighters).
Turkey views the YPG and its political wing, PYD (“Democratic Union Party”) as the Syrian offshoot of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), a group blacklisted as a terrorist organization for using violence to fight for the independence of the Kurds living in Southeast Turkey.
The PKK has been waging a guerilla war and committing terrorist attacks against Turkey since 1984, in a conflict which has claimed more than 40,000 lives.
Turkey has also been carrying out air strikes against alleged PKK and YPG positions in North Iraq’s Sinjar Mountain region, and in Northeast Syria.
In addition to Turkey, large ethnic Kurdish communities also live in Syria, Iran, and Iraq. The Kurds in Iraq enjoy an autonomy in the former of the Kurdistan Regional Government, also known as Iraqi Kurdistan, an entity the size of Scotland which is going to hold a referendum for independence in the fall.
In addition to Turkey’s disputes with the US over America’s backing for the Syrian Kurds, Turkish – American relations have also been debilitated by the constant Turkish demands that the US arrest and repatriate Pennsylvania-based Turkish Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen.
Turkish President Recep Erdogan claims that Gulen and his powerful movement Hizmet plotted the failed military coup attempt of July 15, 2016.
Turkey has been engaged in a long-standing diplomatic spat with another NATO ally, Germany, over a wide range of issues.
‘It Was Intentional’
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency leaked the locations of US troops in the YPG-controlled areas in Northern Syria as well as details on the numbers of US and French troops stationed there, sparking the ire of fellow NATO member states, AFP reported.
The Anadolu news agency published a detailed report of the secret locations of US military bases, operational posts and military posts inside Syria.
The 620-word news report also included the numbers of US soldiers and French special forces stationed at these locations.
The unprecedented leaking of sensitive battlefield information by the state-run news agency obviously had official Turkish backing, according to Jasper Mortimer, Turkey correspondent of France24.
“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,” explained Mortimer, reporting from Ankara, adding that the revelation of troop numbers was particularly serious.
“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,” he elaborated.
The report entitled “US increases military posts supporting PKK/PYD in Syria,” lists US positions in Kurdish administered area of northern Syria and is the latest display of Ankara’s ire over Washington’s support for the PYD (Democratic Union Party), and its military wing, the YPG (People’s Protection Units), which Turkey views as the Syrian affiliate of the proscribed Turkish PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party).
“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,” said Mortimer.
The US denies working with Kurdish separatists and maintains the YPG is part of the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces), which includes a large component of Arab troops.
The leaked details of US positions inside Syria include three US military posts in the northern Syrian province of Raqqa, home to the de facto capital of the ISIS terrorist group.
The report mentions the presence of US and French special forces stationed in a military post located on a hill south of Kurdish-administered town of Kobani. At a military base in Ayn Issah, a town in northern Raqqa, troops included “200 US soldiers and 75 French special forces units,” the report added.
Operational capacities of the locations, including bases that are large enough for military helicopters and cargo planes are also detailed, as well as weapons arsenal that include artillery batteries, rocket launchers and armored vehicles.
‘Exposure to Risks’
The report of the Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu sparked strong condemnations from the US Defense and State Departments on Wednesday, with the Pentagon warning that the leaks could put lives at risk.
“The release of sensitive military information exposes coalition forces to unnecessary risk and has the potential to disrupt ongoing operations to defeat ISIS,” Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told reporters.
Tensions have also been simmering between Turkish military and NATO officials based in Brussels. Turkey is NATO’s only Muslim-majority member with the alliance’s second-largest standing army.
In December 2016, NATO’s top commander, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti warned of a “degradation” of the alliance’s command operations following Turkey’s dismissal of “talented, capable” senior Turkish military officials in massive purges after the July 2016 coup attempt.