CHP’s presidential nominee İnce vows to shut down US military base in İncirlik
IN A SURPRISING remark, the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) presidential candidate Muharrem İnce vowed yesterday to close Incirlik Air Base to the United States and send the U.S. soldiers back by Christmas unless the U.S. extradites the leader of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), Fetullah Gülen. Speaking at a rally in the Black Sea region’s Amasya province for the upcoming presidential elections, İnce said, “I will tell the U.S. to extradite FETÖ’s leader; otherwise it is Christmas on Dec. 24, and the U.S. soldiers in İncirlik will be able to celebrate Christmas at home. It is that simple.”
İnce, who is a CHP deputy of Yalova Province, was announced as CHP’s presidential candidate on May 4 after long-awaited days and will go up against Presidet Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
İnce stated that if he is elected he will “improve the judiciary in three months and Europe and then, the U.S. will not be able to criticize our judiciary,” and he promised after the changes, he will ask for the extradition of Gülen.
The issue of Gülen’s extradition has been clouding ties with the U.S. Turkish authorities have repeatedly asked Washington to extradite Gülen, who orchestrated the July 15, 2016 coup which killed 249 people. FETÖ was also behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.
Despite evidence and documents sent by Ankara to Washington, there has not been any progress for the extradition of Gülen. The U.S. maintains an important presence at Incirlik, a Turkish military airport and base located in the southern Adana province, as a hub for operations against the Daesh terrorist group. The base was established in 1954 and was considered one of the most important NATO bases in Turkey during the Cold War. The base continues to house a stockpile of dozens of American tactical nuclear weapons. As a response to the U.S. arms embargo following Turkey’s military intervention in Cyprus in 1974, the base was transferred to the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) by the CHP-led coalition government the same year. The U.S. returned to the base in 1978 after it ended the embargo. The U.S. presence in Incirlik was a source of criticism from the Turkish far-left during the Cold War. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the far-right also joined in the voices demanding the base be free of foreign troops.
Starting in the early 2000s, especially with the U.S. invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq, discussions about ending the U.S. presence at Incirlik started in Turkey. As relations with the U.S. went downhill, the argument of closing the Incirlik base has been often brought up.
Main opposition CHP’s presidential candidate Muharrem İnce.