A Turkish Bayraktar TB2 UAV performs during the TEKNOFEST event at Cigli Airport in Izmir, Turkey, on October 1, 2023.

A Turkish Bayraktar TB2 UAV performs during the TEKNOFEST event at Cigli Airport in Izmir, Turkey, on October 1, 2023. Mehmet Emin Menguarslan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Pentagon: US downed Turkish drone when it became ‘potential threat’

Top defense and military leaders spoke to their Turkish counterparts on Thursday.

The U.S. downing of a Turkish drone over Syria was “a regrettable incident” that took place after the UAV became a “potential threat” to American forces on the ground, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman said Thursday.

“It's important to point out that no U.S. forces were injured during the incident. We have no indication that Turkey was intentionally targeting U.S. forces,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters.

Ryder said Turkish drones were seen around 7:30 a.m. local time Thursday conducting airstrikes near Hasakah in the northern part of the country. Some of the strikes took place “inside a declared U.S. restricted operating zone” about a kilometer away from U.S. forces, who then moved into bunkers.

Around 11:30 a.m., a Turkish drone again flew into the restricted zone and headed towards U.S. forces. 

“U.S. commanders assessed that the [unmanned aerial vehicle], which was now less than a half a kilometer from U.S. forces, to be a potential threat, and U.S. F-16 fighters subsequently shot down the UAV in self-defense at approximately 11:40 local time,” Ryder said.

There are about 900 U.S. troops in Syria as part of the mission to destroy the remnants of the Islamic State terrorist organization. What the UAVs were targeting is unclear, and Ryder directed questions to Turkey.

Politico reported that the drone was a Bayraktar TB2 “armed with air-to-ground missiles.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin talked with Turkish Minister of National Defense Yasar Guler on Thursday, urging “de-escalation in northern Syria and the importance of maintaining strict adherence to de-confliction protocols and communication through established military-to-military channels.  Both leaders reiterated our shared commitment to defeating ISIS,” said a Pentagon statement.

“The secretary acknowledged Türkiye’s legitimate security concerns and affirmed his commitment to close coordination between the United States and Türkiye to prevent any risk to U.S. forces or the Global Coalition’s Defeat-ISIS Mission in northeast Syria exclusively in support of the campaign to defeat ISIS.”

The new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Gen. CQ Brown, also spoke to Chief of the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces Gen. Metin Gürak about “our shared objective of defeating ISIS and the need to follow common deconfliction protocols to ensure the safety of our personnel in Syria following today’s incident,” a Pentagon statement said.