Despite the recent attitude of the U.S. media and some politicians pretending as if the PKK-affiliated People's Protection Units (YPG) is the only option to cooperate with in northern Syria, history portrays a different picture. It shows that Turkey and the U.S. have been longtime allies and strategic partners that managed to overcome various challenges over the years.
Diplomatic relations between Turkey and the U.S. were established in 1927, four years after the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923. Between the establishment of diplomatic relations and World War II, the two countries did not involve in close relations due to the global environment and foreign policy preferences. As World War II came close to an end, two countries started to build a close alliance, based on strategic partnership. In 1945, Turkey became a member of international system built after the war. Later that year, Turkey became a charter member of the U.N. After World War II, Turkey determined its place in the new global order and joined the western liberal order, led by the U.S. In the face of the Soviet threat, the U.S. declared the Truman Doctrine in 1947.
The doctrine enunciated U.S. intentions to guarantee the security of Turkey and Greece and resulted in significant military and economic support. Turkey became a member of NATO in 1952, as part of the first enlargement movement of the organization. However, joining the organization came at a cost. Turkey first fought beside NATO members in the Korean War, losing 721 soldiers, then became eligible to be a member of the organization, as its previous attempts to join it were unsuccessful. In 1954, two countries signed the first status of forces agreement. Since 1955, Turkey has hosted İncirlik Air Base, an important operations base of the U.S. Air Force. In March 1980, Turkey and the U.S. signed the Defense and Economic Cooperation Agreement (DECA), in which the U.S. was granted access to 26 military facilities, in return for which Turkey could buy modern military hardware and was given $450 million to start shopping.
Between the years of 1952 and 1991, Turkey and the U.S. maintained close relations based on strategic partnerships in the environment of the Cold War, despite some ups and downs.
Following the end of the Cold War, Turkey's geostrategic importance and possible foreign policy shifts were heavily discussed. In contrast to expectations, Turkey continued to be a very important NATO partner and strategic ally for the U.S. Turkish airbases have played a critical role during the Gulf War, as they did in the Cold War. In 1999, PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan was captured in a coordinated effort by Turkey's National Intelligence Directorate (MİT) and the Pentagon. Beginning in 2001, following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the relationship premised upon the concept of cooperation on counterterrorism, law enforcement and military training and education. Turkey has remained a close ally of the U.S., supporting it in the War on Terror in the post-Sept. 11 clima
te. Turkish bases and transport corridors have been used heavily for military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. In 2003, the U.S. operation targeting Iraq faced strong domestic opposition in Turkey and Parliament did not approve the legislation allowing U.S. troops to attack Iraq from Turkey. However, it was permitted to use Turkish bases for overflights.
Later in the Iraq War, Turkey established the NATO Training Mission-Iraq since 2005 and has sponsored specialized training for hundreds of Iraqi security personnel in Turkey. In 2005, Turkey also joined NATO's Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan and has commanded the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan since its inception. Other joint operations Turkey attended with NATO forces include military missions in Somalia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Libya. Since the Syrian Civil War started in 2011, Turkey and the U.S. conducted cooperation in the region, despite some disagreements including the status of the YPG. In 2015, Turkey opened its military bases to the U.S. and coalition partners, also actively joining the anti-Daesh Coalition operations. In the fight against Daesh, Turkey became one of the most efficient and active actors in Syria.
Now, Turkey is about to launch another counterterrorism operation to clear east of the Euphrates from the remaining terrorist elements and once again expects U.S. support, compatible with the longtime alliance and partnership.