Turkey green lights U.S. warplanes to use key air base in war on ISIS
The United States and Turkey have reached an agreement in which manned and unmanned American warplanes will carry out airstrikes against the Islamic State from Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey, near the Syrian border, Obama administration officials said Thursday, The New Yok Times reported.
The agreement, described by one senior administration official as a "game changer," came after months of negotiations that culminated on Wednesday with a phone call between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Obama, another administration official said.
The development came as Turkish forces were reported to have engaged in the first direct combat with Islamic State forces on the Syrian side of the border.
The developments vaulted Turkey squarely into the broader battle with the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. It was a step the Turkish authorities had been reluctant to take until now in their effort to protect Turkey's 500-mile border with Syria, where ISIS is firmly ensconced.
Turkey had allowed unmanned strikes from Incirlik but had thus far balked at allowing manned airstrikes.
Officials at both the State Department and the Pentagon said they were hesitant about talking about the pact until the Turkish government acknowledged the agreement publicly.
The United States and Turkey "have decided to further deepen our cooperation in the fight against ISIL," the State Department's spokesman, John Kirby, said in an emailed statement. He said that "due to operational security I don't have further details to share at this time."
Mr. Kirby added that the United States would work with Turkey and other European partners to curb the flow of foreign fighters to Syria, recognizing that "the foreign fighter problem is not Turkey's alone."