On Tuesday, Fox News reported that U.S. officials confirmed that over a dozen U.S.-backed Syrian and Iraqi Kurdish fighters were killed by airstrikes from Turkish jets. The officials, who spoke on anonymity, said while no U.S. fighters were hit the situation is “very serious.”
“This is very serious,” one U.S. official told Fox News.
The Kurdish forces known as the “YPG” or “The People’s Protection Units,” are a 50,000-person strong militia that has been working as an ally to western forces in the fight against ISIS in Kurdistan, a region of the Middle East that encompasses small parts of northern Iraq, northern Syria, Turkey and Iran. Turkey has seen the Kurds as an ethic minority for decades and have worked to push them out of their nation as the Kurds push for sovereignty.
The YPG now coordinates with western militaries, including the United States, as a proxy for stability in the fight against ISIS. Though Turkey and the Kurds have joined in the global fight against ISIS, the threat of the Kurds to Turkey keeps them at odds.
The strikes hit Iraq’s Mount Sinjar and Syria’s Mount Karacok and were reportedly meant to break up rebel supply lines that were en route to infiltrate Turkey. Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan has referred to Sinjar as a “terrorism” center.
“As a result of the barbaric strikes by the Turkish warplanes at dawn today against the YPG centre … 20 fighters were martyred and 18 others wounded, three of them critically,” YPG spokesman Redur Xelil said in a statement.
American Military News spoke to Xelil in an exclusive interview last month about the relationship between the United States and Kurdish forces.
“We have a special relationship with the American soldiers here,” he told American Military News. “They know us well and our strength in the war on ISIS. What we want is immediate increased American support to our units and to develop the relations between us because we are the only force than can achieve victory with the fewest casualties and civilian victims.”
Xelil also added that he hoped America would not reconsider its support for the Kurds based on influence from Turkey, America’s NATO ally.
“We adamantly hope that America does not lose sight in supporting our cause due to other countries lobbying against us, specifically Turkey, who bomb Kurdish assets at every opportunity, all the while trying to damage Kurdish relations with the U.S.”