Turkish Offensive on Islamic State in Syria Caught U.S. Off Guard
Behind scenes, coordination between Washington and Ankara broke down at senior levels, according to officials
By ADAM ENTOUS and GORDON LUBOLD in Washington and DION NISSENBAUM in Istanbul
When Turkish ground forces delivered a lightning strike on Islamic State fighters in Syria last week, the Pentagon hailed what it described as close U.S.-Turkish coordination.
But behind the scenes, cooperation between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners broke down at senior levels, according to officials on both sides. The two countries weren’t as aligned on the operation as their public statements indicated.
While the White House was preparing to consider a secret plan to have American special forces join the Turks, Ankara pulled the trigger on the mission unilaterally without giving officials in Washington advance warning. When clashes started between Turkish and Syrian Kurdish fighters—who are directly backed by U.S. Special Forces—the Pentagon issued unusually blunt calls for both to stand down.