US ‘denies’ reducing operations at Turkey’s İncirlik base due to bilateral tensions
WASHINGTON – Anadolu Agency
The Pentagon has refuted “speculative” claims that the U.S. military has reduced its operations at Turkey’s İncirlik Base due to long-standing tensions between Washington and Ankara.
Johnny Michael, the spokesperson for the United States European Command (EUCOM), said the claims were “just a speculation,” and all military operations continue unabated at the İncirlik base, a statement also confirmed by Turkish sources, state-run Anadolu Agency reported on March 12.
The Wall Street Journal on March 11 reported that the U.S. military’s operations at the İncirlik Base had been reduced and that the military was “considering permanent cutbacks” due to tensions between Washington and Ankara.
The Wall Street Journal’s report referred to the military base as “the centerpiece of the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State [of Iraq and the Levant] for several years” and said “a squadron of American A-10 ground attack jets was moved from İncirlik to Afghanistan in January, leaving only refueling aircraft currently at the Turkish base.”
The report also claimed that the number of military family members living on the base has decreased.
Turkey has been calling on the U.S. to cut support to the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), as it continues its military operation to clear the northwestern Syrian district of Afrin of YPG militants.
Ankara sees the YPG as a terrorist group and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting the Turkish state for decades and is also considered a terror network by the U.S and the EU.
Washington and Ankara decided to establish “working groups” to tackle a range of tension areas, including the former’s partnership with the YPG in the anti-ISIL campaign, which Ankara staunchly opposes.
The first meeting of three Turkey-U.S. working groups concluded on March 9.
The meeting was “positive” and collaborative work will continue, diplomatic sources told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.