US, Turkish defense chiefs discuss İncirlik Air Base operations

US, Turkish defense chiefs discuss İncirlik Air Base operations

US, Turkish defense chiefs discuss İncirlik Air Base operations

DHA photo

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and his Turkish counterpart on July 19 discussed the importance of Turkey’s İncirlik Air Base in the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Pentagon has said.

Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Işık expressed regret that he could not attend a defense ministerial meeting on July 20 in Washington on the fight against ISIL but said the Turkish ambassador would be there, the Pentagon said.

Turkey closed its airspace to military aircraft following the July 15 failed coup attempt and power was cut off to İncirlik Air Base, which U.S. forces use to launch air attacks against ISIL. U.S. officials were working with Turkish officials to resume air operations quickly, the Pentagon had said on July 16.  

Police and prosecutors had also initiated an inspection at the base in the southern province of Adana and the base’s Turkish commander, Brig. Gen. Bekir Ercan, was arrested over alleged involvement in the coup attempt.

The base was reopened to military aircraft and U.S. operations against ISIL have resumed, the Pentagon had announced on July 17. 

The initial closure raised worries, as a prolonged interruption at the air base could force the United States to divert aircraft based in the Persian Gulf to the Manbij and Raqqa offensives, constraining the air power available to support Iraqi and U.S. forces involved in operations against ISIL. It could also complicate the Pentagon’s ability to resupply and aid the U.S. special forces inside Syria.

A lengthy halt could also constrain the operations of U.S. drones, now flying out of İncirlik, to gather intelligence and strike ISIL leaders and militants in Raqqa who plot and coordinate extremist attacks in Western Europe.