Isn’t it simple? Washington got (permission to use) İncirlik base in Turkey and started to hit Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets, and now it is evacuating the families of the personnel that are on duty in Turkey’s critical regions.
Let me explain how we came to this point, in the light of recent events.
They knew it. They had calculated the terror risks against American targets would increase once it became apparent that Ankara would increase its operations towards the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) due to domestic political concerns.
Initially they tried to convince Ankara to lower the tension and return to the solution process. When they failed to do so, they determined a position according to a conflict situation.
First, they have prevented the spiraling of the Turkey-PKK conflict to the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the PKK’s wing in Syria. They contained the contention. Then they encouraged the PKK, who depend of the U.S.’ aerial support against ISIL to fight against ISIL in Syria. Then they took the decision to evacuate against the risks towards the American targets born of this conflict.
Is the risk the PKK? Not necessarily. But think of this as the result of Turkey’s policy. Ankara has 10 people; eight of them are earmarked for the fight against the PKK. That’s why limited resources are left for ISIL, al-Qaeda and the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), who are targeting the U.S.
Evaluate Washington’s decision to pull back Patriot missile deployed in Gaziantep by October, which was made public on Aug. 19, within this framework.
The only explanation is not technical reasons. Had that been the case, a high-level U.S. official would not have talked to the New York Times and said the Turkish authorities were livid when they heard the decision to withdraw the Patriots.
How about the air operations? Can a preparation for a wholescale attack against ISIL be the reason behind the evacuation? Perhaps, but the U.S. officials I have talked to did not give a sign of that.
Following the agreement reached by U.S. President Barack Obama and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, six U.S. F-16s came to İncirlik on Aug. 9. The war planes started to hit ISIL targets from İncirlik on Aug. 12. Turkey joined the operations as of Aug. 28 when the two sides reached an agreement on technical issues on Aug. 24. A U.S. official I have talked to said they were not planning additional deployment of aircraft to İncirlik. And he evaluated the agreement reached with Ankara as an ordinary incident. “There are no agreements signed between the two governments,” he said. It was a technical framework a low level U.S. army official set up with its Turkish interlocutor.
The problem is this: Currently the U.S. has no clear cut strategy against ISIL. They are talking about pushing them back, but despite over 6,000 sorties in the operation that started on Aug. 8, 2014, in Iraq and on Sept. 23, 2014, in Syria, the only force that has registered some progress on pushing back ISIL was the Kurds who got U.S. aerial support.
ISIL is here to stay. A Sunni structure in the region is unavoidable even if it is not called ISIL. Now Turkey is being pushed in the midst of this mess while also with the influence of domestic turmoil.
The U.S. knows it all, but the problem is they don’t see Turkey’s stability as a priority. Washington has a Kurdish policy and an Iran policy but does not have a policy that cares about Turkey’s long-term interests.