Stunning news from Turkey highlights the deteriorating security situation, as the U.S. military has issued a mandatory evacuation order for nearly all military families to leave Incirlik Air Base and two other military installations, in Ismir and Mugla, beginning Wednesday.
In other words: the United States is evacuating military families from the major airbase in a NATO ally, because it is not safe for them.
“We understand this is disruptive to our military families, but we must keep them safe and ensure the combat effectiveness of our forces to support our strong ally Turkey in the fight against terrorism,” said EUCOM chief General Philip Breedlove, as quoted by Stars and Stripes.
According to the European Command, the order is estimated to affect about 670 of the 770 dependents currently in Turkey, along with 287 family pets.
Another 100 or so family members took advantage of a voluntary early departure program offered by the Air Force, beginning in September. At that time, Military.com quoted Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook saying there were no specific threats against Incirlik, but since U.S. forces began using the base to attack ISIS positions in Syria the previous month, a voluntary evacuation was being offered “out of an abundance of caution.” Evidently most dependents opted to remain, until now.
Stars and Stripes notes that Incirlik was put on base lockdown and raised to the highest threat condition in early March, with the on-base school temporarily closed. Classes for students were only recently resumed, at different locations on the base, but are unlikely to remain in session for long, given the evacuation order.
The Military Times recalls that in July, security concerns prompted base officials to restrict troops, civilian employees, and their dependents from visiting the formerly friendly “American alley” outside the Incirlik base.
Stars and Stripes also reports that EUCOM has extended travel restrictions to Brussels, a week after the terrorist bombings that killed 35 people. The previous travel restrictions had been scheduled to end today. EUCOM did not provide an expiration date for the extended travel ban, which requires approval from senior leadership for visits to the capital of Belgium. Travel to Turkey is also currently restricted.