For over 50 years, the U.S. military has relied on Incirlik airbase in Turkey in large part because it was located on the territory of a stable and friendly state. As this reality changes, however, U.S. military planning must adapt accordingly.
There is a perception in Ankara that the United States needs Turkey more than Turkey needs the United States. Turkey has demonstrated a willingness to leverage its geostrategic role as a neighbor to war-torn Syria and host of U.S. assets at Incirlik to exert pressure on the United States. After the country’s failed coup in July, the Turkish government publicly blamed the United States and demanded the extradition a Pennsylvania-based preacher Ankara believes was the ring-leader.
Turkey has demonstrated a willingness to leverage its geostrategic role to exert pressure on the United States.
More recently, Ankara promised to improve military cooperation with Russia, and complicated the fight against ISIS by combing U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish units and picking a fight with Baghdad over Mosul. Indeed, for some time, the Turkish government appeared to act without fear of censure, engaging on a broad crackdown on the press and freedom of speech under the belief—unfortunately validated by the U.S. government—that due to Turkey’s importance as a partner, it would not be criticized for its increasingly authoritarian bent. It is time to upend that calculus.