Turkey demands US air support for offensive in Syrai

The Turks allow the U.S. to launch operations against the Islamic State from an airbase in Incirlik but in return they have of late expected that the U.S. would provide air support for the Turkish military operations inside of Syria.

The Turks have even threatened to close down the base. Turkish forces are struggling to wrest the town of Al-Bab from the control of the Islamic State (IS). In response to the request, the U.S. made overflights of the town as a show of force. However, they did not make any attacks on IS. The Russians have already given the Turks air support by attacking targets outside of Al-Bab.
Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik said that the lack of U.S. support was resulting in serious disappointment among the Turkish public. The Turkish Anadolu news agency also reported that it was leading to questions over U.S. use of Incrilik. Isik called on the U.S. to provide the needed air support for the al-Bab operation. The U.S. is already providing air support for Kurdish operations in Syria support that Turkey disapproves.
U.S. Air Force Colonel John Dorrian said that any move by Turkey to limit or even shut down the Incirlik operations would be disastrous for the US war against the Islamic State. The U.S. is mainly depending on a drive by Syrian Kurdish and Arab forces who are moving against the main city and self-proclaimed Islamic State capital of Raqqa. Dorian said: "It's absolutely invaluable. Really, the entire world has been made safer by the operations that have been conducted there." Turkey had briefly closed airspace over Incirlik during the recent failed military coup and had cut off power to the base. In the July coup attempt, Turkish pilots who supported the coup took off from Incirlik and bombed Ankara including the parliament building. Some Turkish officials were suspicious that the the U.S. may have supported Turkish military rebels. One high-ranking Turkish officer attempted to turn himself in to the US military but the U.S. allowed Turkish authorities to arrest him. Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish Foreign Minister said: "The U.S. is a very important ally for us. We have cooperation in every field, but there is the reality of a confidence crisis in the relationship at the moment" — over Incirlik and the al-Bab offensive, which Turkey has named Operation Euphrates Shield.
Captain Dorian said that weather and poor intelligence about the location of friendly forces may have been factors in the decision of the U.S. planes not to attack. He said that there were discussions at higher levels to increase the support given by the U.S. Dorian said: "I don't have the details to offer you about what the way forward will be in al-Bab. But I do know there has been some good discussion on that, and Turkey is aware of that discussion."
The Incirlik base was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beginning way back in 1951 and an agreement for joint use was signed in 1954. It has been used as a deterrent to the then U.S.S.R. and for U.S. staging operations in the mid-east. There are still about 5,000 US service personnel at the base although military families have been sent home along with non-essential personnel due to unrest in Turkey.
Relations with the U.S. have been strained as Erdogan forges a new alliance with Russia. Erdogan is also angry that the U.S. refuses to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric residing in the U.S., whom Erdogan blames for starting the failed July coup. Erdogan is also annoyed at the U.S. support for the Kurdish YPG or People's Protection Units which he regards as an arm of the Kurdistan Worker's Party that he considers a terrorist group. It would seem a simple step for the U.S. to at the very least accede immediately to the request of Turkey for help for its forces attacking Al-Bab.


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