US: İncirlik invaluable for anti-ISIL fight
WASHINGTON/ANKARATurkey’s İncirlik Air Base, which is one of the main hubs for the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has been “absolutely invaluable” in the anti-ISIL campaign, the coalition said on Jan. 4, while Turkey has once again questioned the use of the air base.
“The entire world has been made safer by the operations that have been conducted there,” coalition spokesman Air Force Col. John Dorrian told reporters from Baghdad, according to state-run Anadolu Agency. “It’s a very important base to the coalition and to the ongoing fight against Daesh,” Dorrian said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL.
On Jan. 5, Turkish presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said Turkey had the right to say that it is shutting the İncirlik air base down.
“We always have the right to shut İncirlik down,” said Kalın on a private broadcaster. “But as I said, first the conditions would be evaluated [in case of a shutdown idea]. We hold the right of disposition [of this decision] within the sovereignty rights,” he said, adding that he believed the U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s administration would better take into account Turkey’s sensitivities.
Dorrian’s comments came after criticism from Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who said the U.S. had failed to provide air support to Turkey-backed opposition forces taking part in Operation Euphrates Shield against ISIL.
The minister said the Turkish nation was asking the U.S. the question: “If you are not supporting us in the most significant operation, then why are you based at the İncirlik Airbase [in southern Adana province]?”
One day after Çavuşoğlu, Kalın also criticized the U.S.’ lack of support to Turkey in its ongoing campaign in Syria’s al-Bab.
The Turkish Army is supporting Free Syrian Army fighters seeking to capture al-Bab, a strategic city for ISIL.
Turkey has told U.S. officials it has not received sufficient support in its fight against ISIL in the last month-and-a-half and expects full support in its bid to drive the jihadists out of al-Bab, Kalın said.
Dorrian also said the U.S.-led anti-ISIL coalition was prepared to support Turkish forces battling the fighters in northern Syria.
Dorrian, speaking via video conference from Baghdad, said support would be offered.
“I can confirm for you that those discussions have been happening and the Turks are aware of some of the things that might be in store,” Dorrian said, declining to provide further details, according to AFP.
Turkey has asked for such assistance from the coalition but despite these calls, coalition planes have not been deployed to directly help Turkish troops.
Coalition aircraft did make a show of force last week near al-Bab at the request of Turkish forces but did not fire any weapons.
While the U.S.-led coalition refrains from direct support, Russian aircraft conducted air strikes near al-Bab together with Turkey last week.