Turkey’s authorities have allowed the US to use its airbases in the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, a senior US official said, adding that Washington can also use a key Turkish installation near the Syrian border.
“Details of usage are still being worked out,” the US official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Turkey has come under increased pressure from the US and its coalition partners in the fight against IS (also known as ISIS, or ISIL) to help combat the jihadist militia. US military units have long been stationed in southern Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base, 8 kilometers east of Adana, the fifth-largest city in the country. At least 1,500 US airmen operate out of the base.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel held a telephone call with his Turkish counterpart Ismet Yilmaz. He thanked Ankara for its “willingness to contribute to coalition efforts, to include hosting and conducting training for Syrian opposition members,” Rear Admiral John Kirby, the chief spokesman for the Department of Defense, told AFP.
Hagel “noted Turkey’s expertise in this area and the responsible manner in which Turkey is handling the other challenges this struggle has placed upon the country, in terms of refugees and border security,” Kirby added.
During the telephone call, Yilmaz agreed that Turkey could also host the US Central Command-European Command planning team, scheduled next week to “further develop a training regimen,” Hagel’s spokesman said.
“Both leaders stressed the need to continue taking a comprehensive, strategic approach to the threat posed by ISIL and other extremist groups.”