Obama urges rule of law in Turkey, US seeks to resume air operations
WASHINGTON - ReutersPresident Barack Obama urged parties on all sides of the crisis in Turkey on July 16 to avoid destabilizing behavior and follow the rule of law, a day after a coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rocked U.S. efforts to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Turkey closed its airspace to military aircraft following the coup attempt and power was cut off to İncirlik air base, which U.S. forces use to launch air attacks against ISIL. U.S. officials were working with Turkish officials to resume air operations quickly, the Pentagon said.
Obama conferred with his national security and foreign policy advisers by conference call on July 16 morning and reiterated his support for the "democratically-elected, civilian" government of Turkey.
"While we have no indications as of yet that Americans were killed or injured in the violence, the president and his team lamented the loss of life and registered the vital need for all parties in Turkey to act within the rule of law and to avoid actions that would lead to further violence or instability," the White House said in a statement.
Obama noted the United States needed continued cooperation from Turkey in the fight against terrorism.
The İncirlik air base in the southeastern province of Adana was running on internal power sources after a loss of commercial power to the base, the Pentagon said.
"U.S. officials are working with the Turks to resume air operations there as soon as possible," said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook.
"In the meantime, U.S. Central Command is adjusting flight operations in the counter-ISIL campaign to minimize any effects on the campaign."
“Clearly the variable here is how long the closure will last,” said Jeffrey White, a former senior Defense Intelligence Agency analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“If we’re unable to fly from Incirlik, it will have a significant impact on the air campaign.”
A prolonged closure of Incirlik’s airspace could force the United States to divert aircraft based in the Persian Gulf to the Manbij and Raqqa offensives, constraining the air power available to support Iraqi and U.S. forces involved in operations against ISIL. It could also complicate the Pentagon’s ability to resupply and aid the U.S. special forces inside Syria.
A lengthy halt also could constrain the operations of U.S. drones, now flying out of Incirlik, to gather intelligence and strike ISIL leaders in Raqqa and militants based there who plot and coordinate extremist attacks in Western Europe, White said.
If İncirlik remains closed for a extended period, U.S. manned and remotely piloted aircraft will be forced to make much longer flights to targets in northern Syria and Iraq from aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf and air bases in Qatar and Kuwait, U.S. defense officials said.