American Military Positions In Northern Syria Leaked By Turkey Over Kurdish Support

Syrian Democratic Forces
A member of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), made up of U.S.-backed Kurdish and Arab fighters, stands guard near the village of Bir Fawaz, 20 km north of Raqqa, during their offensive toward ISIS's Syrian stronghold as part of the third phase to retake the city and its surroundings, on February 8, 2017. Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty

Turkey's state-run news agency leaked the positions of U.S. military bases and special forces stationed in northern Syria Tuesday as Ankara continues to vent its anger over Washington's support for Syrian Kurds on its southern border.

Anadolu news agency reported that the U.S. has 10 military points in northern Syria to assist the People's Protection Units, or YPG, in the fight against the Islamic State militant group (ISIS).

The YPG is a militia that Turkey says is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, a group that Turkey, U.S. and the EU have listed as an extremist organization, which has waged a decades-long, bloody insurgency against Ankara.

The news agency said the bases are "usually hidden for security reasons," but proceeded to list 10 bases in the northern and northeastern Syrian districts of Al-Hasakah, Kobane, Manbij and Raqqa, in a move that could rupture relations between the NATO partners.

The report goes on to list the U.S. areas of operation and the precise district in which they are stationed. It also provides the presence of U.S. and French special forces at particular bases, and the number of elite forces stationed there.

Col. Joe Scrocca, coalition director of public affairs told the Daily Beast“Publishing this type of information [is] professionally irresponsible and...[could] put Coalition lives in jeopardy.”

The U.S.-led coalition told Newsweek it was "looking into" the report. The Pentagon did not respond for a request for comment. 

Turkey opposes the Syrian Kurds located along its southern border, saying they want to create a de facto state that would threaten Turkish sovereignty. Ankara opposes the YPG's involvement in the battle for the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of ISIS's self-styled demi-state that straddles the Iraqi-Syrian border.

The Turkish government has criticized the Trump administration, a key NATO ally, for arming and supporting the Syrian Kurds in the bid to defeat ISIS. To that end, Washington created the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, a coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters, so not to appear that they were siding completely with the Kurds.

The U.S. denies that the arms it gives the Syrian Kurds will end up in the hands of the PKK, which has conducted many deadly attacks on Turkish soil. But Turkish government anger appears to have spilled over, and the disclosure of U.S. military locations in one of the bloodiest warzones in the world is not likely to be accepted without censure from Washington. 

The U.S. military is using the bases to train the SDF fighters, and to launch attacks against ISIS. It also uses Turkey's southern Incirlik base to conduct airstrikes against ISIS. 

The six-week offensive to liberate Raqqa from ISIS has seen the SDF capture more than a quarter of the city's neighborhoods. Turkey is concerned that the liberation of territory from ISIS by the Kurds will present their foes with a greater territorial hold, and more influence to wield along its border. The U.S. says Kurdish forces will withdraw to their original positions east of the Euphrates River once Raqqa is liberated from the Islamic State group.