US official dismisses claims of US Air Force moving out of Turkey's İncirlik Air Base

MERVE AYDOĞAN @mgulaydogan
Published 11.04.2017 22:55

Responding to claims that the Donald Trump administration is "preparing to pull U.S. Air Force units out of İncirlik Air Base in southern Turkey," Lt. Col. David Faggard, the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) spokesman, emphasized the significance of İncirlik for the coalition fighting against Daesh terrorists.

Lt. Col. Faggard also affirmed that the U.S. "intends to continue to cooperate closely with Turkey."

Initially reported earlier this week by DEBKAfile, a website known to have close ties to Israeli military intelligence sources, the Trump administration was allegedly preparing to move the U.S. Air Force out of İncirlik Air Base and move them "to five new and expanded air bases in Syria."

The DebkaFile report claimed that "several U.S. engineering teams are working around the clock to build a large new air base in northern Syria after completing the expansion of an additional four."

The claims had surfaced shortly after the U.S. missile attack targeting a regime air force base in Syria in response to the chemical weapons attack on civilians last week.

"Under the auspices of a massive project, the Trump administration is proceeding full-steam ahead with steps to pull U.S. Air Force units out from the air base in southern Turkey which has been in active use by U.S. forces since 2002," the claim raised by DebkaFile said.

"Those units were in the middle of a big moving job to the five new and expanded air bases in Syria. Their hub is to be Tabqa, which is just 40 kilometers west of Daesh's so-called capital of Raqqa," it added.

The report also says that the "five U.S. bases in Syria are part of Trump's three-pronged strategy which aims to fight Daesh terror, block Iranian access to Syrian land and air space and provide the enclaves of the PKK's Syrian offshoot the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing the People's Protection Units (YPG) with a military shield against the Turkish Armed Forces [TSK]."

On that note, the EUCOM spokesman told Daily Sabah, yesterday, that "Turkey remains a NATO ally and a strong partner" in the U.S.-led coalition against Daesh.

Furthermore, touching upon the significance of İncirlik Air Base for not only the U.S. but also for the anti-Daesh coalition, the EUCOM spokesman said, "The Turkish air force base at Incirlik continues to fulfill an important role in providing support for NATO and coalition efforts. The U.S. presence there, with the permission of the government of Turkey, has been a symbol of our commitment to work with and help defend our ally and strategic partner for decades."

Affirming that the U.S. is to maintain its cooperation with Turkey, the Lt. Col. said, "Coalition counter-Daesh operations being conducted from Incirlik and other Turkish facilities are closely coordinated with, and have the full support of, our Turkish partners. We're fully engaged in this fight and intend to continue to cooperate closely with Turkey."

Meanwhile, amid tensions with the former U.S. administration over lack of support by the anti-Daesh coalition to Turkey's combat against Daesh in Syria, the Turkish government had considered shutting down İncirlik altogether. Turkey's presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın in January said that Turkey had the right to shut down İncirlik.

The air base is currently used by the U.S.-led coalition to fight Daesh in the Middle East. Apart from U.S. and German Tornado jets, the British Air Force and the Royal Saudi Air Force also use the base.

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