While it’s uncertain if there is any link between the two events, the Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army’s Ninth Brigade – Special Forces released images of its fighters conducting training drills in northern Syria around the time reports emerged of the clash.
Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman told Business Insider that “unknown groups” have engaged with U.S. forces on “multiple occasions over the past week or so Northwest of Manbij”, a town in Syria formerly held by ISIS.
As Ankara and Syrian rebels it backs oppose Kurdish-led opposition forces fighting against Daesh terrorists with the U.S. military support in the country, media reports emerged that USA servicemen came under fire from a group of Turkey-backed rebels. However it seems that the Turkish-allied forces likely knew they were exchanging fire with United States soldiers.
The incident occurred around the same time US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis visited Turkey to meet with his Turkish counterpart and the country’s President Recep Erdogan.
The recent clash comes weeks after attacks against United States troops in the area were first reported and confirmed by coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon. Turkey has criticized US support for Kurdish militias such as the People’s Protection Units (YPG), because it considers them connected to an insurgent Kurdish nationalist movement at home.
“These patrols are overt”.
Ryan Dillon, a spokesperson for the Kuwait-based Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, said the insurgents opened fire first near the city of Manbij, prompting coalition forces to shoot back before taking cover elsewhere.
The US supports several Syrian militias that also oppose Assad, though the US now only supports them in their fight against ISIS.
“Coalition troops will continue performing patrols within the Manbij Military Council area of control”, Pahon, the Pentagon spokesman said, adding “Coalition forces are there to monitor, deter hostilities and ensure all parties remain focused on our common enemy and the greatest threat to regional and world security, ISIS”. Gen. Rupert Jones, told reporters at the Pentagon last week.