Turkish authorities told the U.S. they were closing the air space above Incirlik Air Base until they could be sure all Turkish air force assets were under government control. US aircraft had to suspend operations against ISIL.
Friday’s attempted coup in Turkey against the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has had a major impact on US operations against ISIL. Turkish officials have closed the air base to incoming traffic in an effort to complete their anti-coup operations. Several servicemen at Incirlik Air Base were detained due to coup attempt links. Airspace to military aircraft was also closed.
Incirlik Air Base is a major hub for US operations in the Middle East. It is the home of the 39th Air Base Wing, a non-flying unit that provides key support for deploying units in the region. Incirlik Air Base has been a location for deploying strike aircraft and unnamed aerial systems (UAS) in the fight against ISIL. US drones from Incirlik regularly strike targets in Syria.
Currently, the U.S. has about 2,500 troops in Turkey, mostly based at Incirlik and deployed in the fight against the Islamic State group. The Incirlik airbase is also one of six NATO sites in Europe that house tactical nuclear weapons.
Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement early on Saturday, “The Turkish government has closed its airspace to military aircraft, and as a result, air operations at Incirlik Air Base have been halted at this time. U.S. officials are working with the Turks to resume air operations there as soon as possible.”
A EUCOM spokesman, Navy Capt. Danny Hernandez, reiterated that there was no expected fallout from the attempted coup.
“There was not chaos at this base,” he stated “All our assets in Turkey are fully under control and there was no attempt to challenge that status.”
Turkish officials also cut power to the base. US facilities were reported to be using internal power sources to maintain operations.
Losing a major hub to fly airstrikes against ISIL would be a significant blow to US efforts in the ongoing fight against the Islamic State. The tenuous situation in Turkey could alter how the US maintains its presence in the region. Even a slight change that limits strike operations for the US and NATO would be a setback.
Cook said that while air operations at the Turkish-owned and operated base were halted, the U.S. was “adjusting flight operations in the counter-ISIL campaign to minimize any effects on the campaign.”
You can read the full Stars and Stripes article here
Top Photo credit: Turkish F-16 at Incirlik Air base (breakingnews.com)
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