Turkey and the US have a close shave in Syria

An American fighter jet shot down a Turkish military drone last week after it flew within 500m of US forces in northeast Syria.

This is exceedingly rare. Turkey and the US have been NATO allies since 1952; they fought together in Korea and Afghanistan, and coordinated closely during the Cold War.

But in Syria, they’re on opposing sides:

  • The US works with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-led militia fighting groups like ISIS plus the Syrian regime forces, while
  • Turkey sees the SDF as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which Ankara (plus the US and others) have listed as terrorists.

Intrigue’s take: As with any organisation of NATO’s size (31 members), it’s unlikely that every member will row in the same direction, all the time.

Still, if the US and Turkey have arrived at a point where they’re shooting each other’s hardware out of the sky, it might be time for a heart-to-heart.

Also worth noting:

  • The US defence secretary and top military leadership called their Turkish counterparts immediately after the incident.
  • In June, Turkey carried out a drone strike targeting the SDF’s leader. There were three US military personnel in the convoy that was carrying him. Nobody was hurt.
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