WASHINGTON The U.S. military said on Tuesday it carried out air strikes in Syria against Islamic State targets of interest to both Washington and Ankara near the town of al-Bab, following Turkish criticism of insufficient U.S. support for its ground offensive.
U.S. Air Force Colonel John Dorrian, a Baghdad-based spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition battling Islamic State, counted four strikes in recent days against Islamic State targets that he said were in both countries’ “mutual interest.”
“We saw a window of opportunity where it was in our mutual interest to get those targets destroyed,” Dorrian said, adding the targets were identified by working with Turkey.
They included an armoured personnel carrier and Islamic State tactical units, he said.
“This is something we expect to continue doing. We strike (Islamic State) targets anywhere in Syria or Iraq that they can be found,” Dorrian told reporters at the Pentagon.
Dorrian added the targets were “mutually developed” by the United States and Turkey. But the extent of U.S. support for Turkey’s actions on the ground around al-Bab remained unclear.
Turkey has been angered by U.S. policy in Syria, particularly Washington’s support for Kurdish militia fighters it sees as an extension of PKK militants fighting within Turkey, a group that Washington and Ankara both classify as a terrorist organisation.
Turkey has also accused Washington of failing to do enough to support its push to take al-Bab from Islamic State even as the country provides the U.S.-led coalition access to an air base to stage operations in Syria.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Peter Cooney)