Turkey’s opening air bases for anti-ISIL coalition would be beneficial: US commander
An EA-18G Growler launches from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) in this U.S. Navy picture taken in the Arabian Gulf October 28, 2014. REUTERS PhotoThe U.S.-led coalition fighting against Islamic jihadists in Iraq and Syria would benefit from Turkey’s permission to use its airbases, a U.S. commander has said.
“When and if the Turks decide to be more forthcoming in helping the coalition, it will clearly be value-added,” Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East and South Asia, said when asked to what extent the coalition’s efforts had been interrupted by Turkey’s reluctance to allow the usage of its İncirlik base.
“The more access to basing and overflight rights, the better,” he further said at an event organized by the Atlantic Council think tank on Nov. 6.
Despite not publicly opposing the idea of allowing U.S. forces to carry out bombing raids from the İncirlik Air Base in southern Turkey, Ankara has been insisting that no decision has been made over the issue, as negotiations are ongoing over the demands of both parties.
The Turkish government has been linking the opening of Turkish bases to the anti-ISIL coalition with the establishment of security zones and no-fly zones in Syria.
The government has also been pressuring the coalition to pursue a broader program that will include the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, rather than only focusing on the elimination of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
However, Washington has continuously asserted that it has no intention of carrying out a comprehensive agenda in Syria, where fractious groups have been clashing with the al-Assad regime for over three-and-a-half years.
“We’re focused on Iraq as our main effort,” Austin also said during his Nov. 6 remarks. Strikes on ISIL forces in Syria are designed to “shape” the situation in Iraq by killing ISIL members, destroying equipment and the group’s ability to generate revenue from oil fields, the commander added.