Friday, July 15, 2016

U.S. Military’s Counter-ISIS Operations from Turkey Left Uncertain With Coup Attempt
By Dan Lamothe
Washington Post
July 15 at 6:32 PM

The U.S. military’s future use of Turkish bases in the campaign against the Islamic State was left uncertain Friday evening amid an attempted coup against the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Defense officials at the Pentagon, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the attempted coup as it unfolded, said Friday that they were aware of what was occurring in Turkey but still working to determine its effects on U.S. operations.

The Pentagon has increasingly relied on Turkish military installations as the United States has waged its war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. In particular, U.S. troops at Incirlik Air Base near the southern border with Syria and at Diyarbakir Air Base in the southeastern part of the country both have a direct role in the military campaign against the militants.

“We are monitoring the situation in Turkey closely and taking appropriate steps to ensure the safety and security of our service members, civilians, their families, and our facilities,” said a senior U.S. defense official.

“As of this time, there has been no impact to Incirlik Air Base and counter-ISIL air operations from Incirlik continue,” the official added, using an acronym for the militants.

At Incirlik, the United States has based A-10 attack planes, KC-135 tankers and unmanned aircraft. An Air Force commander there said in May that his unit handled one-third of all refueling operations for the air war over Iraq and Syria.

An A-10 squadron has been based at Incirlik since October 2015, after the Turkish government allowed U.S. strike aircraft to use the base. Use of the base immediately improved how long the aircraft could remain over Iraq and Syria, considering its close proximity when compared to other military bases used by the Pentagon in Persian Gulf countries.

At Diyarbakir, the Air Force began staging small numbers of U.S. troops last fall in case personnel recovery missions were required. The installation is home to Turkey’s 8th Air Wing, and was not planned as a permanent home for U.S. troops, U.S. military officials have said.

Senior defense officials also said in April that they were planning to place a mobile rocket system known as HIMARS, short for High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, somewhere in Turkey to support U.S. operations in Syria.

In other parts of Turkey, U.S. troops use an air base in Izmir, some 200 miles southwest of Istanbul, and Aksaz Naval Base, on the Aegean coast. In March, Pentagon and State Department ordered the families of U.S. troops and diplomats to leave the country, citing security concerns raised by terrorist attacks across Turkey.

It also was not immediately clear what effect the coup plot had on the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, and at consulates in the cities of Adana and Istanbul. A statement released by the embassy in Ankara warned U.S. citizens that the Turkish government warned of an uprising attempt.

“We urge U.S. citizens to contact family and friends to let them know you are safe,” the embassy’s statement said. “We have seen reports that social media is blocked, but you can contact friends and family by email, telephone or SMS.  We encourage U.S. citizens to shelter in place and do not go the U.S. Embassy or Consulates at this time.”

U.S. Marines are typically stationed at embassies and can be reinforced with additional personnel who are flown in at times of crisis.

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