Turkey allows US to use airbase to strike IS targets
Ankara: Turkey will let the US carry out airstrikes against the Islamic State terror group from a key military base near the Syrian border, US officials said. The agreement, yet to be confirmed by Ankara, follows months of negotiations.
The deal comes after 32 people, mostly university students, were killed in a suicide attack in a Turkish town on the Syrian border on Monday. Turkish authorities blamed the IS for carrying out the attack.
The agreement was finalised in a phone call between President Barack Obama and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday. It was confirmed by US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity on Thursday, BBC reported. The use of the Incirlik airbase broadens the US military's ability to strike IS targets.
Once used in raids against former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, the base is near to Turkey's long border with Syria, and significantly narrows the distance to the IS stronghold of Raqqa. This agreement goes beyond providing the US-led coalition, against IS, with a geographical advantage.
Turkey has been in the coalition since the beginning but was not fully cooperating due to its differing views over the Syrian crisis. The Turkish government argued that the first priority of an international coalition should be removing President Bashar al-Assad rather than attacking IS.
Having the Turkish government clearly backing the coalition brings extra political clout against IS. The Turkish government, which has, until the beginning of this year, been accused of turning a blind eye by allowing IS fighters to cross its borders, was under huge international pressure to open the airbase.
The negotiations between the US and the Turkish government came to fruition as recent attacks by IS against Turkish and Kurdish targets added an urgency to the response. The White House is yet to comment on the agreement, but White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that Obama and Erdogan agreed to deepen their cooperation.