In the latest sign of Turkey’s increasing isolation, the United States has announced plans to remove 12 fighter jets from Incirlik air base.
According to Reuters, a spokesman with the US military’s European Command has confirmed that the US will withdraw 12 F-15 Eagles and Strike Eagle fighters from Turkey. The spokesman said that the aircraft had completed temporary deployment, despite having only been moved to Incirlik air base one month ago.
According to a news release, the aircraft will be returning to RAF Lakenheath in the United Kingdom, beginning December 16.
Earlier this year, both the US and Germany also withdrew surface-to-air missile batteries stationed along the Turkey-Syria border.
The sudden withdrawal is surprising given that the Pentagon had previously encouraged European allies to use Incirlik as a staging platform for the anti-terror campaign.
“We are in an active conversation with many of our European partners about the potential for them to relocate and to join us on the ground in Incirlik,” Gen. John Allen told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in October.
The announcement comes as Turkey faces international condemnation over the downing of Russian bomber in Syrian airspace last month. The incident left two Russian soldiers dead.
“I was immediately concerned that NATO might buy into the insanity being demonstrated by Turkey,” former CIA and US State Department official Larry Johnson told Sputnik. “Fortunately, the reports coming out of the NATO meeting indicate that several of the NATO ministers were asking Turkey: ‘What in God’s name were you thinking?'”
Turkey is also under fire for its decision to deploy hundreds of troops and tanks into northern Iraq, a move the Iraqi government views as a breach of its own sovereignty.
“The government is committed to maintain good neighborly relations, but at the same time reiterates its right to take measures to protect national sovereignty,” the Iraqi government said in a statement.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi gave Ankara 48 hours to remove its troops, but Turkey has failed to comply. The United Nations Security Council is currently reviewing a formal complaint lodged by Baghdad.