Friends and Allies
Turkey Questions US Use of Airbase at Incirlik

With Aleppo subdued, Russia has been providing air support to a Turkish push against ISIS around al-Bab, as part of its “Euphrates Shield” operation. Ankara’s mission there has a dual purpose: to keep the Islamic State away from Turkey’s borders, and to prevent Kurdish militants from consolidating their gains and creating a contiguous para-state in the same region.

The problem is that the United States has been relying on the same Kurdish fighters as its main proxy force in fighting ISIS. Ankara has never been happy about this, but with Russia at its side, its complaint has grown louder. Reuters:

President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Thursday there was no need for a “rushed evaluation” on Incirlik, a base used by NATO allies to launch air strikes against Islamic State in neighboring Syria.

But he questioned why the United States, which backs some Kurdish groups against Islamic State in northern Syria, had not lent support to NATO ally Turkey’s latest push to take the Syrian town of al-Bab back from the jihadists.

“In the past month-and-a-half, we have seen and understood that this support was not given at the sufficient level and effectiveness,” Kalin told broadcaster Kanal 24, calling for full support and saying “excuses are not acceptable”. […]

Kalin said he hoped the administration of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who will be sworn in on Jan. 20, would be more attuned to Turkey’s sensitivities.

Incirlik air base is not just a launching point for attacks against ISIS in Syria. It’s also where the United States has positioned up to 50 of its tactical nuclear weapons.

Will the Trump Administration be more attentive to Ankara’s anxieties? It’s an open question. As Adam Garfinkle recently pointed out, lurking beneath Team Trump’s stated determination to fight ISIS are a whole slew of contradictory sympathies and policy goals. Turkey may be among the winners when an attempt is made to reconcile them. Then again, it might not.

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