A Farewell to İncirlik? (2023)

A US departure from the strategic air base would remind Turkey that its influence has limits.

Turkey’s blocking of Swedish NATO membership is disappointing but not disastrous. Nonetheless, this would be a good moment to set alliance security ties with Turkey on a businesslike path and remind Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that his allies can only be pushed so far.

We can start by withdrawing US forces from the strategic İncirlik Air Base in southern Turkey. The United States began constructing this massive facility in 1951, initially as a key link in the chain of sites meant to contain the Soviet Union (including as a base for U-2 “spy plane” missions). Over time its purpose evolved, and it has been employed time and again in pursuit of US interests in the Middle East.

But its value is now less than in the past, and President Erdoğan’s behavior in holding up Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership applications, along with other policies like assisting Russian sanctions evasion, suggests it is time for the US to reassess.

How important is it that Sweden and Finland gain NATO membership? It’s a powerful sign of Western resolve in the face of Russia’s renewed aggression. The two countries have long cooperated with NATO on peacekeeping and defense planning, but most Finns and Swedes had seen no compelling need to formalize the relationship. (Thank you, Mr. Putin.) NATO operates by consensus, and it was undeniably disappointing when Erdoğan announced after months of negotiations that he would agree to Finland’s accession but not Sweden’s. (Finland had initially claimed it wouldn’t join alone, but seems to have changed its mind.)

(Video) Hail and Farewell

Is Turkey doing Russia’s bidding in vetoing Swedish accession? While the Kremlin benefits, that’s not the Turkish leader’s motivation. Erdoğan and Putin cooperate in some areas and oppose one another in others. Turkey has angered NATO allies by foregoing sanctions against Russia and providing a haven to oligarchs and their assets. Yet it continues to support Ukraine militarily, and to position itself as a broker, e.g. facilitating the resumption of Ukrainian grain exports.

So what is Erdoğan’s game? At the top of Erdoğan’s wish list: Swedish action to curb fund-raising and organizational activity by opponents, including the Kurdish PKK (which Sweden, like the US and EU, designates as a terrorist group) and exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen’s Hizmet organization (widely seen as responsible for the failed 2016 coup attempt), and to extradite alleged operatives. More broadly, Erdoğan saw an opportunity to remind NATO members of Turkey’s veto power. Nobody who has ever negotiated with a disciplined, knowledgeable Turkish diplomat or executive should have been surprised.

Does NATO fail to take Turkish security seriously? To an extent. Belief is widespread in Turkey that NATO/EU members have long done less than their laws permit to suppress terrorist support operations on their soil, and in some cases, this is likely true. Turkish suspicion of the West is a hardy perennial going back to the Republic’s birth in the 1920s when Ataturk pushed European armies out of Anatolia. Turks – including many who don’t much care for Erdoğan – are also troubled by US support for the PKK’s Syrian affiliate, the YPG, which has partnered with the US since 2014 to combat ISIS. The Obama administration assured Turkey that the US could simultaneously support Turkey against the PKK, and arm and direct the YPG against ISIS and that the latter relationship would be “temporary, tactical, and transactional.” That alliterative arrangement has now lasted into its third US administration, as Turks feared.

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So is Turkey’s position productive? Not if it seeks more concessions from Sweden. Erdoğan may have wrung all he can from Sweden and Finland, and a continued standoff seems both likely and pointless. Erdoğan’s blind spot where Western standards of rule of law are concerned, and a tendency to conflate free speech with support for terrorism, have led him to make impossible demands. Erdoğan appears — either sincerely or willfully — to have interpreted Swedish promises to energize judicial cooperation as a pledge to simply turn over the opponents on Turkey’s extradition wish list. His reported fury over anti-Turkish/anti-Islamic demonstrations in Stockholm recalled the incident during Erdoğan’s 2017 visit to Washington when his security detail brawled with pro-PKK demonstrators (aka the “Battle of Sheridan Circle”), scoring votes and likes at home. Standing up to the West plays well with Erdoğan’s base, at least until the West pushes back. His attitude toward Sweden echoes his stance after the 2016 coup attempt when Turkey demanded the US hand over Gülen — who lives in Pennsylvania — despite the absence of evidence sufficient to meet a US court’s standard for extradition. This led Turkey to hold a number of American citizens on blatantly false charges, until the US tired of quiet diplomacy and instituted sanctions. The risk is that Turkey and Sweden maintain this standoff indefinitely.

(Video) Secretary of the U.S. Air Force visits Incirlik

How much does it hurt NATO if Sweden doesn’t join? Operationally, not so much. Before Finland and Sweden sought to accede, observers pointed out that there was already close military cooperation with NATO and individual member states, which continues to build. (NATO members Norway and Denmark recently agreed to coordinate air defense with Sweden and Finland, for example.) Politically, Turkey’s actions don’t negate the value of Sweden’s (and Finland’s) new commitment to the alliance and vice versa. The real challenge is in global messaging — Russia, naturally, seeks to use the episode as proof that Western resolve is crumbling and NATO is in disarray. NATO’s consensus decision-making is a feature, not a bug, of a democratic alliance. (This isn’t the Warsaw Pact, comrades.) A Western overreaction would play into the Russian narrative.

So what should NATO – and Washington – do? First, stay calm. The US and other NATO members should continue to seek mutually beneficial defense ties with Turkey, which has the second-largest military in the alliance and a critical geographic position. Ignore calls to retaliate, e.g. by abandoning the effort to rebuild defense industrial cooperation largely suspended in the wake of the 2016 coup attempt and Erdoğan’s decision to purchase Russian S-400 missiles. But that said, after the May elections – whether Erdoğan or his electoral opponent Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu prevails – we should remind Turkey that no member of the alliance is indispensable, except the United States. One way: begin the process of withdrawing US Air Force personnel and assets from İncirlik Air Base in southeast Turkey.

Don’t we need İncirlik? Need is a big word. İncirlik was vital to the US logistic enterprise supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Turkey retains tight control over US use of the facility and today İncirlik appears less important to US operations in, say Syria and the Persian Gulf region than bases in partner countries in the Gulf. NATO allies Greece and Romania have proved eager to host US forces.

How is withdrawing from İncirlik “staying calm?” İncirlik is a perennial flashpoint. There is a history of Turkish governments threatening to suspend US operations in response to US action, going back at least to the 1970s, and continuing under Erdoğan. It would be useful to pursue continued bilateral and NATO defense cooperation with Turkey without the question of İncirlik’s status forever looming over the negotiating table.

Has this worked before? Every country is different, but there is precedent for base closures clearing the way for more balanced cooperation, including continued base access. Consider the Philippines: for decades, Naval Base Subic Bay and Clark Air Base engendered popular resentment; that began to subside with their closure in 1991. This year, the two countries agreed to US forces’ use of Philippine bases to counter China. Through the Cold War and beyond, U.S. relations with NATO ally Iceland were dominated by the status of US forces at Naval Air Station Keflavik, which were solely responsible for the defense of Iceland. Icelandic politicians periodically threatened base closure, but in the end it was the US that decided to withdraw its 3,000 personnel in 2006. NATO developed a sustainable rotational system whereby several allies (including the US) provide forces for the defense of Iceland. A side benefit has been that the US and Iceland are able to focus more on areas of non-defense partnership, such as trade and the environment.

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Won’t the Russians try to benefit? Oh, sure, on a propaganda level. I mean, a chatbot could write the talking points – NATO in disarray, Washington fleeing from the Middle East. We can counter that our aim is a balanced, respectful relationship, which should include continued access to Turkish bases, including İncirlik when the sides agree it is necessary. In 2016, Erdoğan’s prime minister Binali Yildirim mused publicly that Turkey would consider letting Russia base forces at İncirlik – a suggestion that even the Russians couldn’t bring themselves to take seriously.

Ambassador Philip Kosnett (Ret.) represented the United States during a Foreign Service career focusing on international security and post-conflict governance. His assignments included Ambassador to Kosovo, Charge d’Affaires in Turkey and Iceland, and Deputy Chief of Mission in Uzbekistan, as well as tours in Afghanistan, Iraq, The Netherlands, and Japan. He now consults, writes, speaks, and designs simulation games on global affairs. He is the editor of “Boots and Suits: Historical Cases and Contemporary Lessons in Military Diplomacy” (Marine Corps University Press, 2023).

Europe’s Edgeis CEPA’s online journal covering critical topics on the foreign policy docket across Europe and North America. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or viewsof the institutions they representor the Center for European Policy Analysis.

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(Video) 39th ABW Command Chief, joined us one last time on Chief's Chat to talk about fulfilling


What command does Incirlik fall under? ›

The primary unit stationed at Incirlik Air Base is the 39th Air Base Wing (39 ABW) of the U.S. Air Force.
Incirlik Air Base
Controlled byUS Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa Combatant Air Force Command (TurAF)
WebsiteOfficial website (USAF)
Site history
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Was Incirlik Air Base damaged? ›

Notably, no injuries or damage to infrastructure were reported from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, which is located only 10 miles away from Adana, one of the cities hit hardest by the earthquake in Turkey.

What is the meaning of Incirlik? ›

Meanings of "incirlik" in English Turkish Dictionary : 3 result(s)
1Generalfig grove n.
2Agriculturefig orchard n.
3Agriculturefiggery n.
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What are the restrictions for Incirlik? ›

ALL arrivals to Incirlik Air Base to include PCS, TDY and leave return, require negative PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arriving. The best option is for PCS travelers to test at their losing base (or nearby base) prior to travel.

Can you live off base in Incirlik? ›

All military and civilian personnel assigned to Incirlik AB, except teachers and contractors, are required to reside on base for reasons of Anti-Terrorist/ Force Protection.

Does Incirlik get cola? ›

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- As of March 15, 2015, the cost of living allowance entitlement for Incirlik Air Base has been eliminated for all assigned U.S. Air Force personnel until further notice.

Did Incirlik AB get hit by earthquake? ›

Troops stationed at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey were all accounted for Monday morning, and there were no casualties or major damage to the installation, according to base officials, after a deadly earthquake hit the country overnight, leaving thousands of people dead.

What is the most secure Air Force base in the world? ›

Bizarre and gripping, Area 51 is also one of the most secure destinations on earth. As a military base for the U.S., detached from the Edwards Air Force Base in California, Area 51 exists within a world of its own, as no one outside of the center itself has any evidence of what goes on inside.

Can families go to Incirlik? ›

If you're questioning if it's safe to bring your family to Incirlik AB, the short answer is "yes." No place has zero risk, but many feel the 39th Air Base Wing is as safe as any other location within the U.S. Air Forces in Europe command.

Why do people call Turkey Turkiye? ›

The reason given in the circular for preferring Türkiye was that it "represents and expresses the culture, civilisation, and values of the Turkish nation in the best way". According to Turkish state broadcaster TRT World, it was also to avoid a pejorative association with the bird of the same name.

What is Turkey slang for? ›

: a stupid, foolish, or inept person.

Does the US still have bases in Turkey? ›

Incirlik Air Base is one of the major strategically located US military bases. The base is in Turkey, which means that it is operated by both the US and the Turkish governments, unlike other co-bases.

Can US military go to Turkey for vacation? ›

All travel to the Republic of Turkey must consist of at least two members. This can include DoD personnel, civilian personnel involved in the mission or family members. The two-person travel policy is the rule and exceptions will not be granted solely on unavailability of a second person.

Is US military allowed to go to Turkey? ›

DOD personnel, including family members, are required to enroll in the State Department's smart traveler program prior to entering or traveling within Turkey. Unofficial travel to Turkey for DOD personnel had generally been banned since 2015 because of the deteriorating security situation in the country.

How many US troops are in Incirlik Air Base? ›

The mission of the host 39th Air Base Wing is to help protect U.S. and NATO interests in the Southern Region by providing a responsive staging and operational air base ready to project integrated, forward-based air power. Incirlik is home to approximately 1,465 military members.

Can you live with your girlfriend in the military off base? ›

For starters, an unmarried couple cannot live on a base outside of certain extenuating circumstances that would have the non-service member defined as a caregiver for the service member's children. As a result, unmarried military couples typically live off-base.

At what rank can you live off base in military? ›

All single airmen in paygrades E-1 to E-3, and E-4s with less than three years of service, are provided unaccompanied housing. Air Force policy allows E-4s and above with at least three years of service to live off base, regardless of the on-base dormitory occupancy rate.

Does the military pay you to live off base? ›

Service members who qualify to live off base are given a Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) as part of their compensation. BAH is a monthly sum of money that takes into account the area's cost of living as well as a service member's pay grade and number of dependents.

Does it get cold in Incirlik Turkey? ›

At Incirlik Air Base, the summers are long, hot, muggy, dry, and clear and the winters are cold, wet, and partly cloudy. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 40°F to 93°F and is rarely below 32°F or above 98°F.

How much is the cost-of-living allowance in Germany? ›

What is the cost of living in Germany? It would be hard to get by for less than €1,000 a month in Germany, and this rises to around €1,500€ - €2,000€ in the cities where rents are higher. Students can usually cover living costs for around €850 a month.

What is the cost-of-living allowance in Hawaii? ›

Currently, COLA is set at 9.28% for Honolulu, Kauai and Maui counties, and at 3.50 % for Hawaii County. Guam/CNMI/American Samoa receive Locality Pay at the Rest of US (RUS) rate; the rate for 2022 is 16.50 %. Pay tables are located at SALARY TABLE 2022-RUS (opm.gov). The COLA rate for Guam and CNMI is 12.45% in 2022.

What was the most brutal earthquake? ›

The 1960 Valdivia earthquake and tsunami (Spanish: Terremoto de Valdivia) or the Great Chilean earthquake (Gran terremoto de Chile) on 22 May 1960 was the most powerful earthquake ever recorded.

What is the most violent earthquake ever? ›

The earthquake of May 22, 1960, that struck the town of Valdivia in southern Chile is the most powerful ever recorded and has become known as the Great Chilean Earthquake. It is thought to have measured 9.5 on the moment magnitude scale (MMS).

What is the strongest earthquake in LA? ›

On January 17, 1994, an earthquake rocks Los Angeles, California, killing 54 people and causing billions of dollars in damages. The Northridge quake (named after the San Fernando Valley community near the epicenter) was one of the most damaging in U.S. history.

What is the busiest Air Force base in the US? ›

Travis Air Force Base is the busiest Air Force Base in the US, in regards to the handling of cargo and passengers, and is also well regarded for delivering humanitarian aid throughout the world.

What is the most deployed Air Force unit? ›

Osan Air Base

As the most forward deployed permanently-based wing in the Air Force, the 51st Fighter Wing is charged with providing mission ready Airmen to execute combat operations and receive follow-on forces.

What is the smallest Air Force base in the world? ›


Affectionately known as the smallest Air Force base in the world, the Norma Brown Air Force Trainer is also known to have the most disaster incidents out of all other bases.

Is it safe to travel to Turkey on your own? ›

Generally crime levels are low, but street robbery and pick-pocketing are common in the major tourist areas of Istanbul. You should maintain at least the same level of personal security awareness as in the UK. Alcohol and drugs can make you less alert, less in control and less aware of your environment.

Is Turkey safe for family? ›

Yes, Turkey is a popular holiday destination and generally safe, particularly if you remain in tourist districts.

What did Native Americans call the Turkey? ›

They knew the turkey as “gvna” (or sometimes “duleji”), which means “kernels” — a reference to the bird's red throat appendage that has a kernel-like texture. Another name applied only to male gobblers was “galagina” — which is glossed as “buck” — in association with the male deer.

What is the old name for Turkey in the Bible? ›

A circular letter sent by consul Lucius recorded in 1 Maccabees 15:16-24, mentions numerous communities in Asla Minör ( How Turkey is mentioned in the Bible) with Jewish people.

What does Türkiye mean in English? ›

Over the centuries, Europeans have referred to firstly the Ottoman state and then to Türkiye by many names. But the name that has stuck most is the Latin "Turquia'' and the more ubiquitous "Turkey."

What is a female turkey called? ›

Adult female turkeys are called hens. Juvenile females are called jennies. Adult females average half the size of male turkeys.

What does breast mean in turkey? ›

A turkey breast is the meat from the chest of the turkey. This large cut is the only white meat on the bird.

What do turkey call themselves? ›

Turks have called their country Türkiye since the country declared its independence in 1923. Türkiye wants its name back. Nearly 100 years after becoming an independent republic, the country more widely known globally by its Western name, Turkey, is moving to reclaim its rightful identity on the global stage.

How many US troops are in Turkey? ›

West Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, Africa, and Indian Ocean
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Is Turkey considered a democracy? ›

Turkey is a presidential representative democracy and a constitutional republic within a pluriform multi-party system, in which the president (the head of state and head of government), parliament, and judiciary share powers reserved to the national government.

Why is Turkey in NATO? ›

In the aftermath of the Second World War, Turkey made the historic choice of siding with the free world and the Western Bloc. This policy was led Turkey to become member of NATO on 18 February 1952. Since then, NATO has been the cornerstone of Turkey's defense and security policy.

How long can a US citizen stay in Turkey? ›

If you are planning to stay in Turkey for more than 90 days within a 180-day period, for any reason, including tourism, you must get a Turkish residence permit.

What should a woman wear in Turkey? ›

Clothing tips for women

In rural Turkey, women tend to dress much more modestly, with dark colored head scarves. A long skirt or loose-fitting pants and a long-sleeved cotton shirt will help you to blend in a little more, and will protect you from the sun.

How much is a Turkish visa for U.S. citizens? ›

Turkey Single Entry Visa Cost or Turkey Tourist Visa: The visa fee for the Turkey Single Entry Visa is 50 USD. Turkey Transit Entry Visa: The visa fee for the Turkey Transit Visa is 50 USD. Turkey Visa on Arrival: The visa fee for the Turkey Visa on Arrival is 20 USD.

Is Turkey considered a combat zone? ›

Yes, if you received HDP/HFP, then that counts as a combat zone/hazardous duty.

How to avoid military service in Turkey? ›

All Foreigners who have applied under citizenship by investment program or marriage, and received Turkish citizenship and you are above 22 years, military service does not apply. The age barrier of 22 years is the key.

Where can US military members not travel to? ›

Men and women serving in the US Armed Forces are restricted from traveling on leave to countries in the United States Central Command Area of Responsibility (AOR), which includes Israel, The Times of Israel has learned.

Do you get cola at Incirlik Air Base? ›

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- As of March 15, 2015, the cost of living allowance entitlement for Incirlik Air Base has been eliminated for all assigned U.S. Air Force personnel until further notice.

What is the largest American military base in Turkey? ›

From a security point of view, it's a roll of the dice to continue to have approximately 50 of America's nuclear weapons stationed at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, just 70 miles from the Syrian border.

Who is the commander of Incirlik AB Wing? ›


Jason Gingrich as 39th ABW commander after serving as the vice commander of the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing and 435th Air Expeditionary Wing, at Ramstein AB, Germany.

What falls under air combat command? ›

Air Combat Command is the primary force provider of combat airpower to America's war fighting commands. To support the global implementation of national security strategy, ACC operates fighter, bomber, reconnaissance, battle-management, and electronic-combat aircraft.

What units are under Tactical Air Command? ›

These included tactical fighters, tactical bombers, tactical missiles, troop carrier aircraft, assault, reconnaissance, and support units. TAC also planned for and developed the capability to deploy tactical striking forces anywhere in the world.

Is Incirlik an accompanied tour? ›

The 24-month tour option for all civilians at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, has been eliminated and a 12-month unaccompanied tour is now required.

What rank is wing CMDR? ›

In the United States Air Force (USAF), a wing commander is a command billet, not a rank. The equivalent USAF rank is most often a colonel (some USAF wings are commanded by a brigadier general) who typically has command of an air wing with several group commanders reporting to him/her.

Is wing commander higher than squadron leader? ›

An air force squadron leader ranks above flight lieutenant and immediately below wing commander and it is the most junior of the senior officer ranks.

What rank is equivalent to wing commander? ›

In the United States Air Force (USAF) wing commander is a duty title, not a rank. The equivalent USAF rank is lieutenant colonel who typically has command of a squadron.

Who are the 11 combatant commanders? ›

At present, there are 11 unified combatant commands within the DOD:
  • U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM)
  • U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM)
  • U.S. European Command (USEUCOM)
  • U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM)
  • U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM)
  • U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM)
  • U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM)
Jan 7, 2022

Do Army pilots see combat? ›

Army pilots are responsible for flying fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and unmanned aircraft (drones) to conduct surveillance, gather intelligence, engage in combat, rescue and humanitarian missions.

Do Air Force combat controllers see combat? ›

The mission of a Combat Controller is to deploy undetected into combat and hostile environments to conduct special reconnaissance, establish assault zones or airfields, while simultaneously conducting air traffic control, fire support, command, control, and communications and forward air control.

What is the difference between TOC and TAC? ›

The TAC would concentrate on the current battle, performing critical operations, FD, and intelligence tasks, while the TOC performed non-critical current tasks and planning and coordination functions.
Operations NCOMaster GunnerOperations SGT
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What does Mac stand for in the Air Force? ›

Proper noun. MAC. (US military) Acronym of Military Airlift Command, formerly, one of three former divisions of the US airforce, the others being SAC and TAC. Acronym of Military Armament Corporation.

What Mos are considered combat arms? ›

Combat Arms Branches
  • Infantry. ...
  • Air Defense Artillery. ...
  • Armor. ...
  • Aviation. ...
  • Corps of Engineers. ...
  • Field Artillery. ...
  • Special Forces.

How many soldiers are there in Incirlik? ›

The mission of the host 39th Air Base Wing is to help protect U.S. and NATO interests in the Southern Region by providing a responsive staging and operational air base ready to project integrated, forward-based air power. Incirlik is home to approximately 1,465 military members.

Can you go off base in Incirlik Turkey? ›

The U.S. personnel working at İncirlik Air Base in the southern province of Adana are now allowed to leave the base with permission given after the 12-year ban, which revived the economy in the region.

Can you bring pets to Incirlik? ›

Incirlik Air Base

All pets living on post must be registered with the VTF upon arrival. On-Post Housing may limit the number and breed of pets that can live in on-post housing.


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