In a statement released by the Pentagon, it has been confirmed that an American fighter jet shot down a Turkish strike drone over northern Syria on Thursday. The incident occurred in the province of Hasakah, where US forces were conducting operations. The drone, known as Anka-S UAV, was perceived as a potential threat and was taken down by fire from an F-16 fighter jet.
According to reports from the US Department of Defense cited by AFP, the Turkish drone was armed with air-to-ground missiles. It was destroyed at a time when American troops were in close proximity and actively engaged in operations. Unverified sources claim that the kill was made by an F-35 from the 421st Fighter Squadron. However, the 421st operates both F-35s and F-16s, leaving the specific aircraft responsible for the incident uncertain.
While the Turkish Defense Ministry denied that the drone belonged to them, officials speaking to the Wall Street Journal revealed that the US military had confirmed its origin and acted with full knowledge of this information. It is worth noting that this marks the first time the US has shot down an aircraft belonging to Turkey, a fellow NATO member and military ally of the United States.
The context surrounding the incident stems from Turkish drone strikes on positions held by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a group supported by the US that controls northeastern Syria. These strikes were carried out in retaliation for a terrorist bombing in Ankara attributed to Kurdish militants. Turkey considers the YPG militia in Syria as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which it has designated as a terrorist organization. YPG fighters constitute the majority of the SDF forces and have recently clashed with their Arab counterparts in Deir-ez-Zor province.
Currently, there are approximately 900 US troops stationed in Syria, aiding the SDF in agricultural and oil-rich territories previously captured from ISIS. The presence of these troops has been deemed illegal by the Syrian government, which has accused the US of stealing Syrian oil. The US has yet to respond to these allegations.
This incident has drawn attention to the complex dynamics at play in Syria, with various factions, including the US-backed SDF, Turkey, and Kurdish militias, vying for influence and control in the region. As tensions heighten, it remains to be seen how this incident will impact the relationships between the US, Turkey, and the SDF moving forward.