The United States has taken down an armed drone from Turkey, a member of NATO, near its troops in Syria. This is the first time the US has shot down an aircraft from one of its NATO allies.
According to Reuters, Turkey claimed that the drone that an American F-16 fighter plane shot down was not theirs. Later, according to Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Turkish counterpart concerning Ankara’s military operations close to US forces in Syria. They talked about the importance of following agreed-upon safety protocols to protect US troops in Syria.
Ryder explained that Turkish drones were conducting airstrikes inside an area where the US had restricted operations. A drone came very close to American troops, less than half a kilometer away, before the F-16 shot it down. The US commander in charge of operations in the region made the decision to take down the drone, and US troops were moved to bunkers as a precaution. Fortunately, no US troops were harmed.
This incident occurred shortly after Turkey’s national intelligence agency conducted strikes in Syria against Kurdish militant targets. This action was a response to a bomb attack in Ankara a few days earlier.
Ryder reiterated that there is no indication that Turkey deliberately targeted US forces. After the incident, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had a productive conversation with his Turkish counterpart.
This incident comes at a sensitive time for US-Turkish relations, as the US hopes that Turkey will support Sweden’s NATO membership.
Although this is the first time the US has shot down a Turkish aircraft, tensions between the two countries have risen in the past, with close encounters and incidents. In 2019, US troops in northern Syria came under artillery fire from Turkish positions.
The United States has supported Kurdish forces in northern Syria, which has long been a point of tension with Turkey. Turkey considers these Kurdish forces to be associated with the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which claimed responsibility for the recent bomb attack near government buildings in Ankara.