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Turkey Says Reconsidering U.S. Coalition's Use Of Strategic Air Base


U.S. Air Force tanker planes at Turkey's Incirlik Airbase

Turkish officials are suggesting that they may stop the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State (IS) militant group from using a strategically important air base near its border with Syria.

The coalition has used the Incirlik base for staging air strikes against IS while allied Syrian Kurdish militias have battled the extremists on the ground. But Turkey regards the coalition's Kurdish allies as "terrorists" because they have ties to Kurdish separatist groups that have waged bloody attacks in Turkey.

"Their presence [in Incirlik] is being questioned by our people and nation, and this issue is on the agenda of the government," Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak told broadcaster A Haber on January 5.

Kaynak complained that the coalition has rarely used the Incirlik base to provide backup to Turkey as it battles IS with its own allies in Syria -- Sunni rebel groups.

Turkey's presidential spokesman, defense, and foreign ministers have expressed similar sentiments this week, and said that Turkey has raised the issue with President-elect Donald Trump in hopes he will change course.

Turkey's complaints prompted strong assurances from the Pentagon and White House in recent days that Ankara can count on support from U.S. planes as it engages IS around the Syrian town of Al-Bab.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
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