The United States plans to leave the strategic airbase “Injirlik” in the southern Turkish province of Adana and possibly move the American contingent there to one of the Greek islands. This was stated by Chairman of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Foreign Relations Ron Johnson, the Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah reported today, September 15.
“We don’t know what’s gonna happen to the Giurlik. We hope for the best, but we have to plan for the worst,” the Republican senator told Washington Examiner.
Johnson said the U.S. is committed to maintaining a full presence and cooperation with Turkey as a whole at this air force facility, leaving such a “strategic shift” (leaving the Giurlik) only as a last resort.
“We already see Greece as an alternative,” Johnson said, adding that the U.S. is increasing its military presence in the Crete area.
Greek and U.S. forces plan to conduct joint exercises near the Western Thrace region, home to the Turkish minority of Greece, Athens reported last Monday. In July, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States would include Cyprus in its 2020 military training program. Before that decision, the U.S. side had suspended the arms embargo against Cyprus, which caused outrage in Ankara.
Located just 110 kilometers from the Syrian border, the Indjirlik Air Base has been and continues to be a strategic element of the U.S. and NATO since its inception in 1954, as it played an important role during the Cold War, the Gulf wars, and Iraq, in the U.S. further military campaigns in the Middle East, including its ongoing coalition mission against the terrorist group DAISH (Islamic State, IG, IGIL – banned in Russia).
Turkey has previously signaled the possibility of closing the Ijirlik airbase, each time against the backdrop of a serious deterioration in relations between Ankara and Washington. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has previously said Turkey may consider closing the Adana base and the Curejik radar in eastern Malatya province, which is used by NATO. Similarly, Turkey is trying to keep the U.S. from imposing sanctions in connection with the acquisition of Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems.
The Ingirlik Base has a critical operational capability for NATO against Russia, Iran, and Arab countries in the Middle East, the Daily Sabah notes.
The airbase presumably contains American tactical nuclear weapons. The Curejik base is located near the Iranian border and is therefore of great importance for tracking military activity in Iran.