US to use Turkish air base to attack IS
TURKEY has agreed to let the US military launch air strikes against the Islamic State from a key air base near the Syrian border, giving the US- led coalition aid while drawing Turkey deeper into the conflict.
President Barack Obama and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan finalised the deal in a phone call yesterday after months of US appeals and delicate negotiations over the use of Incirlik and other bases in Turkey.
Frustrated by Mr Obama’s focus on fighting IS instead of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Turkey’s government had resisted the move but in recent days a surge in Islamic State activity in Turkey has brought concerns about the militant group to the forefront.
American officials said access to the base in southern Turkey, not far from IS strongholds across the border in Syria, would allow the US to move faster against IS targets.
If the agreement holds, the coalition will be positioned to conduct better surveillance over Syria and act quicker on intelligence than when it was limited to launching flights from places such as Iraq, Jordan and the Gulf states.
Under the deal, the US military will be allowed to launch manned and unmanned flights from Incirlik. In the past, only unmanned drone flights were allowed. Turkey has yet to publicly confirm the agree- ment, which US officials discussed on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorised to comment publicly.
Citing operational security, the White House declined to confirm the agreement, but noted that Mr Obama and Mr Erdogan had agreed to “deepen co- operation” against IS in their phone call on Wednesday.
“Turkey is a critical partner in degrading and defeating ISIL, and we appreciate the es- sential support Turkey provides to the international coalition across the many lines of effort,” said Alistair Baskey, a spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council, using an alternative acronym for the militant terrorist group.
Incirlik Air Base, located across the border from the Syrian city of Aleppo, is a joint USTurkish installation that houses the USAF’s 39th Air Base Wing.