Tensions between the United States and Turkey have reportedly led to media reports that the U.S. intends to withdraw its troops from Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey.
The Wall Street Journal reported, “The U.S. military has sharply reduced combat operations at the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and is considering permanent cutbacks there, U.S. officials said, a shift they said was driven by tensions between Washington and Ankara.”
Turkey has denied this claim. According to Russian government-run Sputnik News, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag refuted the media reports, saying, “In recent days there was news that the United States could allegedly leave the Incirlik airbase. The information was refuted by the US authorities. Such decision has not been made.”
Johnny Michael, a spokesperson for U.S. European Command (EUCOM), reportedly described the reports as speculation.
In January, American officials told the Wall Street Journal that Turkish authorities have made it increasingly difficult for the U.S. to fly out of the base because Turkey constantly uses it as a bargaining chip.
Two American officials reportedly said Turkey has at times requested that the U.S. suspend operations on the Incirlik Air Base’s runway.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also focused his efforts away from the Islamic State and shifted forces towards the Kurdish enclave in Afrin, Syria, which the U.S. has advised against.
The Washington Post reported, “In an effort to repair tattered relations, the Trump administration has told Turkey it will move to rein in Kurdish fighters who have been the backbone of the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State in Syria, according to U.S. and Turkish officials.”
The Washington Post wrote, “Saying they feel let down by Washington, U.S.-allied Kurdish forces said last week they are withdrawing from the front lines of the fight against the Islamic State in southern Syria to join the battle against Turkey in the north.”
The publication followed that up with, “Turkish officials were outraged last month when U.S. commanders touring the area with American journalists praised the Kurds and vowed to fight alongside them if there were a Turkish attack.”