The insider attack in Syria that the Pentagon denies ever happened took place on the evening of February 17th. The original article, investigating the insider attack was published on August 8th, 2018 by Task & Purpose, written by Paul Szoldra.
Sgt. Cameron Halkovich and Cpl. Kane Downey had the job of patrolling to check on Marines who are on perimeter security. They had various responsibilities, mostly organizational duties.
On the evening of February 17th, Halkovich, shortly after beginning his patrol with Downey, was shot by an allied SDF soldier. He was shot twice in the left leg with an AK-47 and he survived. As of August 8th, he is still recovering.
The report on the situation, written by Paul Szoldra, is based on “interviews with multiple sources, military award documents, and scant details released by the Pentagon.” According to Szoldra “it has also become an open secret among the 1,000-plus Marines and sailors of the unit Halkovich was attached to — 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, based in Twentynine Palms, California.”
When asked about the incident by Task & Purpose whether there had been an insider attack during the operation, the statement was conclusive: “We have no recorded incidents of insider attacks during OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve).”
The marine contingent from Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment was serving a “mission support site.” They occasionally left the outpost, however the majority of their responsibilities included providing cover from rooftops and in the turret of a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected truck, fighting against ISIS and supporting the SDF.
The marines had mostly got used to life in the outpost, not really communicating much with the Kurdish-dominated SDF. An anonymous source told Szoldra of a Kurdish soldier who loaded his AK-47 and threatened a Marine close to a week before the Halkovich shooting. The marine, however, somehow deescalated the situation, the SDF soldier was subsequently kicked off the base. “Tensions were super high at this point,” the source commented.
However, just a week later, according to Szoldra, as if reinforcing the fragile relationships of the US with foreign militaries the insider attack happened. He claims that the partnerships with foreign militaries are are increasingly being used to fight terror groups through a strategy of “advise and assist.”
The timeline is as follows: A radio call alerted for a commotion at the SDF-manned gate. Halkovich and Downey went to inspect, discovering that, according to SDF soldiers a truck outside was having car trouble.
According to the anonymous source, it was a lie, with a Syrian civilian walking out of the vehicle holding a dead child that was “soaked in blood.” Upon closer inspection the Marines saw a truck filled with approximately eight dead or wounded civilians. Quickly realizing they had to help in the mass-casualty incident that had apparently happened.
The SDF rejected the Marines’ decision, “in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions.” “SDF was trying to tell us that we weren’t allowed to treat them, but… we’re going to help anybody we can,” the source said, adding that the partner force “was super upset about it.”
According to another anonymous source the group of injured civilians was turned away by the SDF because they weren’t Kurdish. The first source confirms it by saying that it “was pretty racial. They refused to give them an ambulance.”
Halkovich and Downey, despite the SDF’s rejection pushed through and opened the gates amid yelling from both sides. The marines began helping the injured.
The army medics saved four of the victims according to the first source, however SDF forces “were not happy,” according to the second. The Kurds even allegedly threatened to kick the Marines off the outpost for providing help.
That same night, Halkovich and Downey decided to go and check on Lance Cpl. Jay Smith, stationed MRAP turret behind a .50 caliber machine gun.
After walking a bit away from their quarters, Halkovich stopped to relieve himself, while Downey continued walking. He, however, noticed something strange – the entry control point had no SDF soldier watching it. Usually there would always be at least one watching the gate.
Reportedly, one of the SDF soldiers was hiding in the shadows, having earlier abandoned his post. He rushed to the MRAP and reached for the handle when he heard two shots from an AK-47.
Upon turning around he saw Halkovich on the ground, he would also later recall a lone SDF soldier standing over Halkovich with a rifle.
Downey, subsequently shot the attacker, killing him. He then dropped his weapon, yelled out to Smith that “Halko was shot!”
Halkovich was shot by two 7.62mm bullets in his leg, both of which went through. Downey initially thought he was dead, however Halkovich woke up, saw what had happened to his leg and started screaming.
According to Downey’s award citation he received in March for a “shooting incident”, he “acted decisively to eliminate the threat to his comrade” before applying a tourniquet to Halkovich’s leg and fireman-carrying him to the surgical facility. (The citation, signed by OIR Commanding General Lt. Gen. Paul Funk, however, takes pains to avoid identifying “the shooter.”)
Smith, remained at his post, alerting the other marines via radio. Halkovich was brought in to the Army surgeons nearby. He was evacuated from the post afterwards, while Downey was brought to a larger camp to explain what had happened to military investigators.
As Szoldra reported – “But for months afterward, the Marines continued to live side-by-side with the Syrian partners they had come to fear.”, citing the first source “It’s really terrifying. You’re literally surrounded.”
Spokesmen of the SDF have since refused commenting.
Halkovich received a Purple Heart in February and is, as of August 8th still recovering, while Downey received a Joint Service Commendation Medal for saving Halkovich’s life.
Currently there are new marines in the outpost formerly occupied by Halkovich, Downey and co., they are in an environment where, apparently, allies can become enemies “in the blink of an eye.”
Szoldra reported that comment was refused when a spokesperson of the unit was asked whether they were warned of the shooting in February and if they knew of the possibility of an insider attack from the SDF.
The second source’s account is the closest thing to an official comment provided: “They said it would be on the front page of every newspaper in the country and yet no justice was ever done for my wounded brother. That is the only reason I’m telling you this because no one knows what happened out there… and nothing came of it.”