ANKARA, Turkey— In reports published in both Turkish and English, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency published a report that provided details about 10 U.S. bases in northern Syria, including troops count and a map of the U.S. force presence in the Turkish version, reported Bloomberg.
The reports said that the military outposts are “usually hidden for security reasons, making it hard to be detected.” It said they were located “in the terrorist PKK/PYD- held Syrian territories,” a reference to Kurdish groups that Turkey’s government considers terrorist organizations.
In recent years, Turkey and the U.S. have been at odds over the U.S. backing of Kurdish fighters in Syria who are affiliated with the separatist movement inside Turkey. The Turkish government probably leaked U.S. troop locations to Anadolu as retaliation, according to Aaron Stein, a fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington.
“The U.S. takes force protection seriously, obviously,” Stein said by email on July 19. “The Turkish government knows this, and still decided to leak the locations of U.S. bases in Syria.”
Meanwhile, the Pentagon said it conveyed its concern to the Turkish government.
“While we cannot independently verify the sources that contributed to this story, we would be very concerned if officials from a NATO ally would purposefully endanger our forces by releasing sensitive information,” Major Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway, a Defense Department spokesman, said in an emailed statement. “The release of sensitive military information exposes Coalition forces to unnecessary risk and has the potential to disrupt ongoing operations to defeat ISIS.”
Anadolu Agency reporter Levent Tok said that the information on the U.S. troops was based on fieldwork by Anadolu’s Syria reporters and some of the information on bases that had been broadcast on social media by Kurdish fighters.
“The U.S. should have thought about this before it cooperated with a terrorist organization,” he told Bloomberg.
News of the Anadolu story was published earlier on July 19 by the Daily Beast, which also released correspondence with U.S. military officials urging the reporter, Roy Gutman, not to share the information because they said it would expose tactical information and put coalition lives in jeopardy.
This move by Turkey is the most recent strain in relations between Turkey and a major NATO ally. Last week, a senior Turkish official told Bloomberg that Turkey has agreed to purchase a missile defense system. This move could dramatically hurt Turkey’s relations with the Western security bloc. In addition, Germany is in the process of withdrawing from Turkey’s most important NATO base, Incirlik, after Turkey refused to allow a German delegation to visit troops there.