US-Turkey tensions: US cuts use of Incirlik Air Base

In the wake of deteriorating ties with Turkey, US has considerably cut-back its operations from the Incirlik air base and is in a process of permanent reduction. The decision has been driven by growing frictions between Washington and Ankara due to alleged US support for the Kurdish rebels YPG.

The Incirlik Air Base has played a vital role in US fight against ISIS. A fleet of American A-10 jets has been moved from Incirlik to Afghanistan, thus leaving only refuelling facility at the airbase in Turkey. Pentagon is thus apparently stepping up its operations in Afghanistan. US military footprint has shrunk although the US has maintained that its ties with Turkey are on track and there will be no further pull-out of forces from Incirlik. The recent developments have the potential to create a deep wedge between the NATO allies and thus destabilize NATO. There has been an increase in heat in the battlefield Syria with US-led forces supporting the opposition to the President Assad’s forces and Russia supporting the regime. Russian display of invincible nuclear might has further ramped up the temperatures and has the potential of changing the dynamics of the game.

Although there have been no formal restrictions imposed by Turkey on the use of the base, but the US has felt an obvious reservation in its use as Turkey has always used it to influence the US and thus the drawdown is necessary to nullify any effect of any loss of their right or ability to carry out operations from the base. Turkey has, however, added that the recent developments reflect a strategic shift of US priorities towards Afghanistan and does not undermine US-Turkish ties. The Incirlik air-base was originally built in 1950 with help of US for helping NATO to contain USSR. US maintains fuelling facility along with F-22 Raptor and F-15 Eagle fighter jets stationed there.

Turkey has stepped up its offensive against the YPG Kurdish fighters in Afrin, Syria and has asked the US to prevent more Kurds from entering Afrin. Turkey has always hosted both US fighter jets and logistics-flight operations since the Gulf War. However, it refused the use of Incirlik air-base to be used for combat flights during the Iraq invasion of US

The latest shift has also been instigated by the decline in US military operations in Syria against ISIL.



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