Germany has announced that it will withdraw its troops from İncirlik Air Base in Turkey's southern city of Adana by September of this year. There are around 200 German soldiers there along with a number of Tornado jets whose purpose is to support surveillance activities over Syrian airspace as well as aerial refueling of coalition aircraft.
Surveillance and refueling are important during a military operation despite that when compared to the other operations undertaken by NATO powers against the Daesh terrorist group, they appear less significant. Of course, it is not known whether German troops have been surveilling only Daesh. Perhaps they are observing other things as well.
It is also not known whether Germany shares the information it collects with all coalition members, including Turkey. As you may recall, Turkey prevented, members of German parliament from visiting the German soldiers at the base, so we can guess that Berlin was not sharing much intelligence with Turkey. In fact, there are currently several crises between Turkey and Germany, not all of which are due to the Gülenist officers – the perpetrator of the deadly July 15 coup attempt – seeking asylum in Germany as a means of escaping the coup trials.
This has not been declared officially, but Turkey is insinuating that the German military presence at İncirlik was not only concerned with the fight against Daesh, but that their presence has something to do with the outlawed PKK's activities in the region as well.
That Ankara refused to allow German politicians to go to the base, despite Germany having insisted on it for a long time and Turkey not altering its decision in spite of every diplomatic effort, proves that there is a significant gap and incompatibility between Ankara and Berlin's strategic expectations. It is not easy for us to know for sure what Germany's strategic priorities are, but we know that for Turkey, the fight against PKK terrorism remains a priority. Perhaps Turkey was not happy with the German troops at İncirlik because of their ambiguous attitude on this terrorist group.
Given the small number of German troops deployed at İncirlik, it is hard to understand why Berlin needs three months to withdraw them. There are probably not technical, but rather political reasons for this, as Germany will hold general elections next September. Perhaps the election result will change Germany's decision regarding the withdrawal. But who knows? Besides, scheduling the redeployment for three months later will give time to German and Turkish authorities for further negotiations.
Another interesting aspect of the redeployment is the new location these soldiers will deploy to. Maybe German troops need these three months to prepare their new base in Jordan. It is hard to believe, however, that German troops will be more efficient in the fight against Daesh there than they were in Turkey. Maybe we will just have to wait until September to see Daesh eradicated, as Germany will be busy moving its troops from Turkey to Jordan in the meantime.
We do not know why German troops will be more efficient in their fight against Daesh once in Jordan, but I hope their presence will not, in time, damage relations between Germany and Jordan, as it did between Germany and Turkey. The fight against Daesh is not only about destroying one terrorist group, it is also a code name for a struggle between great powers for more influence in the Middle East. It seems that Germany has now been persuaded that it will not be able to achieve its aims from Turkey, so it will try from Jordan.
The problem is that everything that is happening in Jordan has, in some way, an impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which adds another factor of unpredictability to this redeployment. Let's hope Germany's move will not transform Jordan into a battleground for Daesh.
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