US military leaders are reportedly “outraged” at the recent escalation of Turkish airstrikes against Iraqi Kurdistan, with concerns centered both on the risk of sucking the US into yet another regional conflict and the danger that Turkish warplanes could inadvertently bomb American forces in the region.
The US has a number of ground troops in Iraqi Kurdistan training the Peshmerga, and has refused to tell Turkey where those troops are exactly, instead giving them broad swathes of territory to avoid. Turkey has countered by giving the US 10 minutes advanced notice when warplanes are headed into those areas, telling them to get out of the way.
Turkey has been fighting a war with the Kurdish PKK since the early 1980s, and is targeting PKK bases in northern Iraq. The lack of coordination with US forces inside the same territory, however, has raised a lot of concerns about the risk of friendly-fire.
Turkey is also attacking the Kurdish YPG in northern Syria, and trying to prevent a linkup of Syrian and Iraqi Kurdistan into a contiguous region. This has fueled enormous tension between the Turkish government and Kurds in general, and with the US suddenly welcome at Turkish airbases, they risk losing their alliance with those same Kurds.
Turkey has maintained it is being extremely selective with strikes inside Iraq, and has denied reports of civilian deaths. At the same time, US officials believe that if a Turkish airstrike were to kill American ground troops, Turkey “would blame us.”
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