Turkey reopens air base to resume U.S. airstrikes

ANKARA, Turkey, July 17 (UPI) — Air space around the U.S.-operated Incirlik Air Base in Turkey was reopened Sunday, allowing American military to resume strikes against Islamic State targets.

Turkey temporarily shut down the air space following an attempted coup Friday of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s government. The shut down made it more difficult for those involved in the coup to escape, the New York Times reported.

“After close coordination with our Turkish allies, they have reopened their air space to military aircraft,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said. He said American war plane operations against IS, also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh, have resumed at all air bases in Turkey.

The United States has a significant number of aircraft operating out of Turkey and is targeting IS around the region.

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The failed coup turned operations upside down when Turkish officials arrested the base commander, Gen. Bekir Ercan Van, and 11 other officers believed to have been part of the coup, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The arrests occurred after Turkish F-16s operated by those involved in the coup attempted to refuel planes there.

Secretary of State John Kerry, in addressing the situation, said the U.S. military experienced minor difficulties because of the refueling attempts, but didn’t expect any long term ramifications for the anti-IS operations taking place out of Incirik.

Power to the base had been cut on Saturday, forcing the U.S. military to use emergency generators. After that, the Turkish government closed the air space around the base.

Some security officials said the aftermath of the attempted coup would affect relations between the U.S. and Turkish military. U.S. officials and North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials said since top military officials in Turkey are likely to stay in power, any disruption in U.S. operations there should be temporary.

But there will be disruption in Turkey’s military.

“You will see a potential indictment, jailing, firing, or resignation of dozens if not hundreds of generals which will have a debilitating effect on the military’s effectiveness,” said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

One NATO official said Turkey, since the attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport last month, now more than ever sees IS as a serious threat and won’t stand in the way of U.S. operations to counter the terrorist group.

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