Turkey, US agree on deployment of armed drones to İncirlik Airbase
Sevil Erkuş ANKARAMilitary officials from Turkey and the U.S. have agreed to deploy armed drones at the İncirlik Air Base in the southern province of Adana, as part of the international coalition fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
During a visit to Ankara on March 11 by the commander of the U.S. Central Command, General Lloyd J. Austin, Turkish and U.S. military officials agreed to deploy two armed drones at İncirlik, but the parties are still waiting for political consent to be sealed with an agreement, a Turkish official told the Hürriyet Daily News.
The U.S. has been using four unarmed Predator drones at the airbase for 3.5 years. One of the Predators that took off from İncirlik was downed by the Syrian Air Force in Syria last week.
“Syrian air defenses brought down a hostile U.S. surveillance aircraft over north Latakia,” the official SANA news agency reported on March 17, while Turkish officials confirmed that the drone had taken off from İncirlik Air Base.
Ankara and Washington are continuing to negotiate for the deployment of U.S. warplanes as part of efforts to “degrade and destroy” ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
Turkish leaders underline that Ankara would only consider allowing an international coalition against the ISIL to use İncirlik as part of a “comprehensive process” for a solution to the Syrian crisis, indicating that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should also be targeted.
İncirlik stands roughly 400 kilometers away from Raqqa, ISIL’s de facto capital in Syria. The anti-ISIL coalition has been relying on bases in the Gulf and flying nearly 2,000 kilometers a day to reach their targets against the jihadist group.