A contingent of U.S. Special Forces has been caught up in Turkish shelling against U.S.-backed Kurdish positions in northern Syria, days after President Donald Trump told his Turkish counterpart he would withdraw U.S. troops from certain positions in the area.
Newsweek has learned through both an Iraqi Kurdish intelligence official and senior Pentagon official that Special Forces operating on Mashtenour hill in the majority-Kurdish city of Kobani fell under artillery fire from Turkish forces conducting their so-called “Operation Peace Spring” against Kurdish fighters backed by the U.S. but considered terrorist organizations by Turkey.
The senior Pentagon official said that Turkish forces should be aware of U.S. positions “down to the grid.” The official could not specify the exact number of personnel present, but indicated they were “small numbers below company level,” so somewhere between 15 and 100 troops.
The incident came as Defense Secretary Mark Esper assured reporters that up to 50 Special Force Operators had been repositioned from “two small outposts” near the Syrian border as Turkey commenced a unilateral operation opposed by the Pentagon. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had long warned he would storm the border to establish a so-called “safe zone” and, after the White House announced Sunday that U.S. troops would stand aside, he launched the operation earlier this week.