Washington (Reuters) – The United States is looking urgently to support Ankara with information-sharing and equipment after 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in an air strike by Syrian government forces in Syria’s Idlib province, a senior State Department official said Friday.
“We’re working on ways to support the Turks, again this will not involve military moves by American units,” the official told reporters. “As a NATO ally and a major foreign military sales partner, we have various information sharing and equipment relationships with the Turks. We’re looking at what we can do on an urgent basis right now to help them.”
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, supported by Russian air power, have launched a major offensive to retake the last large, rebel-held region in Syria after nine years of war. Turkey has sent thousands of troops and heavy military hardware into Idlib in an unprecedented incursion to back the rebels.
The State Department official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, said the military power of Assad’s forces was very reliant on Russia, and that the authorities in Damascus would not have been able to push the Idlib offensive without support and approval from Moscow.
“The overall offensive … launching a six-division side attack with the specific purpose of driving the refugees into Turkey, the ones that aren’t bombed, is something that was coordinated closely with the Russians, would not have occurred, not only without Russian permission but without Russian air power,” the official said.
“There is very close coordination of any kind of strategic air and missile strikes,” he said. “Whether that was the case this time, I don’t know, but we’ve seen this repeatedly.”