Germany has followed through on threats to withdraw its military forces from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey after months of diplomatic tensions with the Turkish government. The forces in question composed Germany’s contribution to the coalition against ISIS, and will remain out of the fight for at least another two months as they are moved to Jordan.
The re-positioning of forces out of Turkey had been discussed for months, and finally began on Sunday. The governments in Berlin and Ankara have been nurturing a continuing rift over a number of political disagreements for some time, but the nail in the coffin between the two came when Turkey barred German lawmakers from visiting their own troops at the air base in May.
Relations had worsened particularly after the German parliament passed a bill clarifying the killings of 1.5 million Armenians from 1915 to 1923 as a ‘genocide,’ a term the Turkish government staunchly opposes. Germany has also been a vocal critic of their NATO ally following the crackdown on dissidents and freedom of the press in Turkey since the failed coup last summer, as well as a ‘referendum’ in April championed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan which greatly consolidated power in the executive branch of his government.
Erdogan has also referred to European leaders as ‘Nazi remnants,’ which remains a politically sensitive accusation in Germany.
Germany has not conducted any direct combat in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State, its military role has consisted of providing reconnaissance and refueling flights for the coalition. But the greater concern is how the falling out between Turkey and Germany can hurt the wider NATO alliance, especially at a time of increasing tensions with Russia. Nothing would make Vladimir Putin happier than two of the largest NATO countries potentially questioning their commitment to Article 5—the clause which states an attack on one member is an attack on them all: the foundation of the NATO alliance—at a time when a shooting war is not entirely unrealistic.
The German contingent will relocate to al-Azrak base in Jordan, where it will join other European and American soldiers, Der Spiegel reports.
Featured image courtesy of Przemyslaw “Blueshade” Idzkiewicz – Wikipedia