US suspends strikes against ISIS group from Turkey base – official
WASHINGTON DC, USA (UPDATED) – The US military has suspended air strikes against the Islamic State (ISIS) group in Syria and Iraq from a base in southern Turkey, a US official said.
Operations from the Incirlik air base were suspended because of the closure of the airspace used by the missions, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement.
US forces "were adjusting flight operations in the counter-ISIL campaign to minimize any effects on the campaign," he said, apparently suggesting missions against ISIS – also known as ISIL – could launch from other locations.
The Turkish authorities imposed a security lockdown at Incirlik on Saturday, July 16, following an attempted coup d'etat by military officers overnight. (READ: Attempted coup in Turkey: what we know so far)
US forces use Incirlik to launch bombing missions against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq. They have notably deployed drones, Prowler electronic warplanes and A-10 ground attack aircraft from the base.
An American official had said late Friday that anti-ISIS missions from Incirlik had not been affected by the coup attempt. But the closing of airspace changed that, Cook said Saturday.
While electricity to Incirlik had been cut off, generators had been able to maintain operations, and that flights could be launched once airspace reopened, he said.
"US officials are working with the Turks to resume air operations there as soon as possible," Cook said.
The US military has around 2,200 service members and civilian employees in Turkey, which is a NATO member and a crucial regional partner for Washington. Some 1,500 are stationed in Incirlik.
American commanders have placed all their forces in Turkey on maximum alert, suspending all non-essential activities.
Following efforts to account for all US personnel, Cook said, "all indications at this time are that everyone is safe and secure." – Rappler.com