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US military boosts security in Turkey to highest level during coup attempt

July 16,2016 18:19

The U.S. military boosted security at bases it uses across Turkey Friday night during a coup attempt against the Turkish government to its highest level, a measure typically reserved for when there is an ongoing terrorist attack. A U.S. defense ...

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the U.S. "without any hesitation, squarely and unequivocally, stands for democratic leadership" in Turkey. (Reuters) The U.S. military boosted security at bases it uses across Turkey Friday night during a coup attempt against the Turkish government to its highest level, a measure typically reserved for when there is an ongoing terrorist attack. A U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing operations, said Saturday that force protection was elevated Friday night to level Delta. That typically signifies a terrorist attack has occurred, or one is considered imminent nearby. [Turkey foils bloody coup attempt] But the defense official said that the State Department has not requested the U.S. military to reinforce any of its diplomatic facilities in Turkey, which include the embassy in the capital of Ankara and consulates in Istanbul and Adana. No Americans were flown out of Turkey by the U.S. military during the coup attempt, the official added. The coup attempt raised questions Friday night whether it U.S. military operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria would be affected, but those concerns appeared to diminish Saturday as the Turkish government reasserted control. The Pentagon has increasingly relied on Turkish military installations as the United States has waged its war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. In particular, U.S. troops at Incirlik Air Base near the southern border with Syria and at Diyarbakir Air Base in the southeastern part of the country both have a direct role in the military campaign against the militants. “We are monitoring the situation in Turkey closely and taking appropriate steps to ensure the safety and security of our service members, civilians, their families, and our facilities,” a senior U.S. defense official said Friday night. [The coup in Turkey could lead to uncertainty in anti-ISIS fight] “As of this time, there has been no impact to Incirlik Air Base and counter-ISIL air operations from Incirlik continue,” the official added, using an acronym for the militants. At Incirlik, the United States has based A-10 attack planes, KC-135 tankers and unmanned aircraft. An Air Force commander there said in May that his unit handled one-third of all refueling operations for the air war over Iraq and Syria. An A-10 squadron has been based at Incirlik since October 2015, after the Turkish government allowed U.S. strike aircraft to use the base. Use of the base immediately improved how long the aircraft could remain over Iraq and Syria, considering its close proximity when compared to other military bases used by the Pentagon in Persian Gulf countries. At Diyarbakir, the Air Force began staging small numbers of U.S. troops last fall in case personnel recovery missions were required. The installation is home to Turkey’s 8th Air Wing, and was not planned as a permanent home for U.S. troops, U.S. military officials have said. Senior defense officials also said in April that they were planning to place a mobile rocket system known as HIMARS, short for High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, somewhere in Turkey to support U.S. operations in Syria. In other parts of Turkey, U.S. troops use an air base in Izmir, some 200 miles southwest of Istanbul, and Aksaz Naval Base, on the Aegean coast. In March, Pentagon and State Department ordered the families of U.S. troops and diplomats to leave the country, citing security concerns raised by terrorist attacks across Turkey. [Pentagon and State Department order families of U.S. troops and diplomats to leave Turkey] It was not immediately clear what increased security measures were taken at U.S. diplomatic facilities in Turkey. A statement released by the embassy in Ankara on Saturday warned that the airport in Instanbul still wasn’t safe to use. “We urge U.S. citizens to contact family and friends to let them know you are safe,” embassy officials said. “We have seen reports that social media is blocked, but you can contact friends and family by email, telephone or SMS.  We encourage U.S. citizens to shelter in place and do not go the U.S. Embassy or Consulates at this time.” This story was originally published Friday night and updated Saturday morning with new information. Read more: Erdogan says his government is in control after bloody coup attempt in Turkey Turkey’s Erdogan always feared a coup. He was proved right. Where in the world was Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan?

Turkey,military,Islamic State

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