This morning we’re getting some clarity about what happened last night at Incirlik air base, where about 2,500 U.S. soldiers are stationed (previously it was reported to have been only 1,500).
From Stars And Stripes:
Turkish police blocked access to Incirlik Air Base late Saturday in response to an anti-American protest, the second such rally in three days and a signal that the strategic base is emerging as a fulcrum for post-coup fallout as tensions between Turkey and the U.S. intensify.
Speculation of a second coup quickly swirled Saturday among local media as Turkish police in armored vehicles cut off access to Incirlik, but local officials dismissed the maneuver a “safety inspection.”
“We did a general safety assessment. There is nothing wrong,” wrote Omar Celik, Turkey’s minister for European Affairs, in a Twitter post.
U.S. European Command said Sunday that Turkish authorities were on hand to offer security support.
“There was a small peaceful protest last night outside the Turkish Air Base Incirlik that Turkish police responded to; and the base gate was secured for a short time as a precaution,” said Navy Capt. Danny Hernandez, a EUCOM spokesman. “There was no impact to U.S. operations on the base.”
It appears that the reporting of 7,000 police surrounding the base might have been exaggerated, either because of Russian reports intentionally doing so, bad translations, and/or gullible conspiracy-minded news outlets. We documented many videos of the protest, but there was little sign of the supposed 7,000 police.
The small protest Saturday comes after a larger gathering on Thursday outside Incirlik Air Base that coincided with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erodgan’s lashing out at Central Command’s Gen. Joseph Votel, whom he accused of siding with coup plotters.
“It’s not up to you to make that decision. Who are you? Know your place,” Erdogan said on national television Friday, a day after Votel said the coup attempt on July 15 and the jailing of Turkish military leaders could affect U.S. operations against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.
Erdogan’s criticism is the latest sign of escalating tensions between the United States and its longtime strategic ally. The stakes are likely to continue to rise in connection with Erdogan’s demand for the return of a U.S.-based cleric accused of inspiring the failed coup against Turkey’s president.
It does appear that Turkey is becoming more hostile to the American presence there, which hamstrings our operations against ISIS. No doubt there will be more hostile actions against the Americans stations there, especially with such a weak, force-averse President.