US to use Turk­ish air base to at­tack IS

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS -

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.

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