July 19, 2016: Flight operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria have resumed from Incirlik and Diyarbakir air bases in Turkey, after being “intermittent” for several days following a July 15 coup attempt in the country, a defense official told Air Force Magazine.
The Turkish government had closed its airspace to all military aircraft, effectively halting air operations at Incirlik and other bases in the country after the attempt. Two Turkish F-16s had threatened the Turkish president’s plane during the military’s attempt to wrest control, locking radars on the plane and other aircraft that was protecting him en route to Istanbul, Reuters reported.
Roughly 8,000 police officers and 6,000 others, including Turkish general officers, have been suspended or detained in Turkey, after the Turkish president promised to get rid of the “virus” that sparked the fighting, the BBC reported.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Gen. Joe Dunford told reporters aboard his plane Sunday that he had not seen “any indication” that the coup was going to happen.
“It was surprising to me that it occurred, but gratifying to me that the army didn’t respond and they continue to respect civilian leadership,” Dunford said, according to a press release. The country “bounced back pretty quickly,” he added.
Dunford called the US-Turkey relationship “broad: politically, economically, and from a security perspective,” and said that the border between Turkey and Syria is key to isolating the battlefield in Syria.
The Air Force has been launching manned air strikes against ISIS from Incirlik since August . In April, the spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve said there were more combat aircraft and capabilities available for the fight against ISIS, including B-52s, A-10s, and Marine Corps EA-6B Prowlers deployed to Incirlik.
But despite the closure this weekend of the key Turkish bases, US Centra Command was able to adjust flight operations elsewhere so it would not impact the campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the defense official said.
US and coalition forces conducted 12 air strikes in Syria and 11 in Iraq on Sunday, according to the Department of Defense. The Syria strikes destroyed ISIS oil wellheads and 22 ISIS fighting positions, while the Iraq strikes hit several ISIS tactical units and destroyed mortar systems, fighting positions, tunnel entrances, and two ISIS headquarters buildings.
As of Monday afternoon local time, Incirlik Air Base was still running on backup power but was able to sustain operations, the official said.
“Base officials are working with our Turkish allies to restore commercial power following the disruption on Saturday,” the official said.
No Defense Department personnel were harmed, the defense official said.
The US government in September paid for the families of US troops stationed at Incirlik or the US consulate in Adana, Turkey, to fly out of the country. In October, EUCOM announced travel restrictions to Turkey for all service members, civilians, and dependents, and those restrictions remain in place as the command considers the appropriate reaction to the security situation there, the defense official said.