A U.S. drone struck and killed at least 18 members of an allied Syrian force this week, the Pentagon said, in the worst friendly fire incident of the war against the Islamic State.
The Tuesday strike south of Tabqa, a strategic town in northern Syria, deepens questions about American targeting procedures in its ongoing air campaign over Iraq and Syria, which activists allege has resulted in a surge in civilian deaths this year.
The U.S.-led coalition said this week’s incident occurred after Syrian forces erroneously identified another allied unit as a group of Islamic State fighters.
The incident comes a week after the Trump administration, promising a tough stance on a range of foreign policy issues, launched a barrage of missile strikes against Syrian government targets in retaliation for a chemical attack on Syrian civilians.
The stand-off assault on Syrian military facilities, the first of its kind since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, appeared to be a momentary deviation from the campaign the United States and its Syrian allies are waging to defeat the Islamic State.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an opposition force the United States is backing in that fight, said that its fighters had fallen as “martyrs” during operations around Tabqa.
“The general leadership of SDF in coordination with [the] international coalition will investigate the reasons behind the accident in order to prevent it happening again,” the SDF General Command said in a statement.