US to stay in İncirlik as long as required: US ambassador

US to stay in İncirlik as long as required: US ambassador

US to stay in İncirlik as long as required: US ambassador


American aircraft will remain at Turkey’s İncirlik airbase as long as required in the struggle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the top U.S. diplomat in Ankara has said. 

“What the actual composition [of the U.S. force] is will depend obviously on how the military campaign evolves and what the specific requirements are to be able to be most effective against DAESH [the Arabic acronym of ISIL]. In terms of duration, we expect that we will be here as long as is required to achieve the objective that we share, which is to degrade and ultimately defeat DAESH. So, we are thinking of this very much in terms of a set of objectives as opposed to a period of time,” U.S. Ambassador to Turkey John Bass said in an interview on CNNTürk aired on Sept. 3.

With respect to the coalition effort against DAESH, the inclusion of Turkey in the full spectrum of operations against DAESH is a really important development and an important additional contribution to our effort to degrade overtime and ultimately defeat this terrible terrorist organization,” the ambassador said. 

“We are already benefiting not only from Turkey’s active participation, but also from the ability to base U.S. and potentially other coalition aircraft and assets in Turkey, which greatly reduces the time for those assets to reach targets in Syria, and therefore increases the capability of the coalition to pursue this military campaign,” he added.

The overall coordination of the air operations is being conducted from a U.S. Central Command facility in the Middle East, the ambassador said, noting that other participating nations from across the coalition had personnel contributing to the center and that all aircraft participating in combat operations were in contact with each other. 

Asked if the Bashar al-Assad regime, had been informed by the U.S. or the coalition prior to military operations, Bass said the U.S. and other members of the coalition had taken measures to ensure the Syrian government understood that they were operating in Syrian airspace to address a terrorist problem and that they were going to be operating in their airspace to conduct this fight.  

“And we expect the regime to stay away from our aircraft lest we have to engage in appropriate measures to protect coalition aircraft, which we absolutely will do if we need to,” he stated.

Elaborating on an ISIL-free zone that Turkey wants to establish on the Syrian side of its border, Bass said the success over time to degrade and defeat ISIL depended on the coalition’s ability to clear the space and eliminate the group’s ability to take advantage of its presence on the border to smuggle people and equipment and technology from Turkey.

“What is the most important thing here is the result we are seeking – not necessarily what we call it,” Bass said.

The U.S. does not have an intention to create a Kurdish corridor that will belong to the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in northern Syria, Bass also said.

The U.S. supports the territorial integrity of Syria, just as it supports the territorial integrity of Turkey and Iraq, he said.

“We do not support parties using and capitalizing on the current conflict in Syria to dismember the country or to create more than one political entity out of that country,” Bass said. 

The ambassador also said they were “concerned” over renewed clashes between the Turkish military and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“It troubles us that we see a resumption of conflict in Turkey that has been prompted by attacks by the PKK inside Turkey,” Bass said.

“The last thing Turkey needs and the last thing this region needs is another conflict with additional death and suffering and instability generated by it. So we believe it is really important to see the [peace] process resume, and obviously the first step in getting to that is a cessation of the current conflict and fighting.  And that starts with the PKK stopping its attacks,” he said.

He also refuted remarks by the PKK’s Cemil Bayık that they had been exchanging messages with the Americans.

“The United States government is not in dialogue with the PKK,” he said.

Elaborating on police raids conducted against the İpek Group, which is known to be close to the Gülen Community, the ambassador said whenever there was government action against a company that owns and operates media outlets, that raises important additional requirements and responsibilities for governments in democratic societies to make sure that any such actions are conducted in accordance with the law and that they scrupulously adhere to and support fundamental universal rights in democratic societies of due process, freedom of expression and freedom of the press. 

“I think particularly in countries like Turkey, where you have very polarized politics and a very polarized media environment, it is important for government to provide to all of the citizens of this country confidence that the law is being applied fairly and equally to all citizens and all companies,” Bass said.