In a regrettable incident, a US fighter jet shot down a Turkish drone in northeastern Syria amid heightened tensions between NATO allies. According to Pentagon spokesperson Pat Ryder, the F-16 jet acted in self-defense, emphasizing that there was no indication of Turkey targeting US forces. The incident occurred when US forces identified drones conducting strikes within a declared restricted operating zone, prompting the assessment of a potential threat when a Turkish drone re-entered the zone hours later. The US military shot down the drone in what the Pentagon termed a defensive measure.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin discussed the matter with Turkish Defense Minister Yaşar Güler, reiterating that US forces in Syria are focused on supporting the global coalition against ISIS. Both leaders committed to continued coordination, emphasizing Turkey’s significance as a valuable partner to the United States.
Turkey’s foreign ministry attributed the drone incident to technical issues within the de-escalation mechanism with third parties and pledged measures for its more effective operation.
The drone event follows a suicide bombing in Ankara, claimed by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), prompting Turkey to retaliate with air raids in northern Iraq. Turkey declared the PKK and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as legitimate targets in Iraq and Syria.
In response to the airstrikes, Turkey targeted 30 locations associated with the PKK and YPG in northern Syria. Tensions arise from differing perspectives, with Turkey and the US designating the PKK as a terrorist organization. Turkey considers the YPG synonymous with the PKK, while the US supports the YPG through the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the fight against ISIS, leading to criticism from Ankara.
Fahrettin Altun, Turkey’s communications director, urged allies to recognize the PKK and its affiliates as terrorists, echoing President Erdoğan’s stance that there are no “good terrorists.”
The incident further complicates relations between the West and Turkey, especially concerning Sweden’s NATO membership approval. Turkey expects concrete measures from Sweden against extremist groups, including the PKK and YPG, before parliamentary ratification. Additionally, Turkey is lobbying for the approval of its request to purchase F-16 fighter jets from the US, a process currently pending congressional approval.