Turks threaten to close Incirlik

Turks threaten to close Incirlik

A US Air Force E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System lands at Incirlik Air Base. Source: Wikimedia
Government members in Ankara are questioning the presence of US forces at the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey, claiming the personnel there are giving too little support to Turkish operations against so-called Islamic State in Syria.

Turkey said it had the right to close the air base, as tensions mount between the Nato allies.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said there was no need for a “rushed evaluation” of Incirlik, which is used by Nato forces to launch air strikes against Islamic State in Syria.

He asked why Washington, which supports some Kurdish groups opposing Isis in northern Syria, had not helped Turkey’s recent attempts to seize the Syrian town of al-Bab back from the extremist organisation.

“In the past month-and-a-half, we have seen and understood that this support was not given at the sufficient level and effectiveness,” Kalin told Kanal 24 TV, saying “excuses are not acceptable”. “We always have in our hands the right to say ‘we will close it’ but as I said, the conditions will be assessed.”

Turkey has been angered by US support for Kurdish groups it sees as an extension of PKK “terrorists” which oppose Ankara in the southeast of Turkey. The US sees Syrian Kurdish militias as an effective ground force against Isis. Kalin said he hoped Donald Trump would be more aware of Turkish sensitivities.

Incirlik, which houses US tactical nuclear weapons, was also a key flashpoint in the botched July 15 coup and several former Turkish commanders stationed there have since been arrested.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also said this week that Ankara had seen no support from the US as it sought to take al-Bab, amid fierce fighting.

“Our people ask, ‘why are you letting them be based at Incirlik?'” he reportedly told the NTV broadcaster.

Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak said the US had rarely used Incirlik to join Turkish operations and the Syrian rebels it supported.

“Their presence is being questioned by our people and nation, and this issue is on the agenda of the government,” he told Turkish broadcaster A Haber.

In August Turkey launched an operation into Syria to push Isis away from its border and prevent Kurdish militias taking the territory.

A Pentagon spokesman said the US was in talks with Turkey about support around al-Bab, where Turkish military activity in Syria is currently focused.


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