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Turkey’s artillery strikes on US forces were deliberate, current & former US officials say

A U.S. service member oversees members of the Syrian Democratic Forces as they demolish a YPG fortification in northeast Syria, Sept. 21, 2019. U.S. coalition remains focused on achieving the enduring defeat of ISIS. The U.S. is currently executing concrete steps to ensure the border area in northeast Syria remains stable and secure. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Goedl)
October 15, 2019

U.S. troops in northern Syria were fired on by Turkish artillery on Friday night, and some believe it was intentional.

A U.S. official told CNN’s Barbara Starr that the U.S. Special Operations Forces in the vicinity of the artillery strikes believe the strikes deliberately targeted U.S. forces.

The Pentagon has not yet said whether or not the attack was deliberate.

Other current and former soldiers have also denounced Turkey’s claim that the artillery strikes were not intentional.

Former U.S. Army Europe commander retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling doesn’t buy Turkey’s defense.

On Saturday, he tweeted, “Turkey knows all US locations by grid coordinates. These are placed in artillery fire control computers as “no fire areas” or NFAs. Either TU artillery soldiers were incompetent, or this was a purposeful act to send a message to US and SDF/Kurds. Turkey fired on a NATO ally.”

Current and former military service members who spoke to Military Times over the weekend said they don’t believe that Turkey could’ve inadvertently fired artillery on U.S. forces.

One senior enlisted artillery soldier told Military Times anonymously that NFA’s would’ve been clearly marked before firing, “especially when firing in an area with high chance collateral damage.”

“In NATO and Western armies we follow a very strict crew drill procedures before firing artillery both in training and combat,” the soldier also told Military Times.

Pentagon spokesperson Navy Capt. Brook DeWalt had said in a statement on Friday that “U.S. troops in the vicinity of Kobani came under artillery fire from Turkish positions at approximately 9 p.m. local Oct. 11.”

“The explosion occurred within a few hundred meters of a location outside the Security Mechanism zone and in an area known by the Turks to have U.S. forces present,” DeWalt added.

No U.S. troops were injured in the incident, and it did not warrant the full withdrawal of U.S. forces in the area at the time.

The official Twitter account for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said the Turkish bombs had targeted U.S. forces.

An exclusive Newsweek report on Friday afternoon had first reported the incident, citing a senior Pentagon official and an Iraqi Kurdish intelligence official, who said U.S. Special Forces came under artillery fire.

The Pentagon official told Newsweek the U.S. forces were “small numbers below company level” estimated to be between 15 and 100 troops. The U.S. forces said the artillery attack was so heavy that they considered firing back in self-defense.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have both called for a cease-fire in Syria, and requested Turkey join negotiations with the U.S.

Over the weekend, Trump ordered the withdrawal of some 1,000 U.S. troops still remaining in Syria, but those troops will remain in the Middle East to combat ISIS.