USAF Families Leave Turkey

A few weeks ago I talked about the NATO base at Incirlik, Turkey, and how the presence of Saudi Arabian aircraft there could put US and NATO personnel in danger if the Syria conflict continued to escalate. That risk seems to have receded with the Russians scaling back their deployment, but there are other dangers. Turkey is becoming increasingly unstable, between islamist attacks and the hard-line government’s own increasingly vicious crackdowns on its own people.

That’s a real worry for the Pentagon, with several thousand military personnel and hundreds of dependants in Turkey. The US military presence is scattered around the country, with a few defense attaches in Ankara and Istanbul, but the majority are at Incirlik Air Base and its sub-stations. Now the Pentagon has decided that, while the troops still have a mission to carry out, the country has become too dangerous for families; so, on March 29th, the spouses and children were ordered to evacuate.

Turkey Air BaseAccording to the DoD, this decision has nothing to do with the Brussels terror attacks, and that’s probably true. High profile attacks like Brussels are certainly a worry, and understandably they generate real fear, but the fact is you’re still far more likely to get shot in a US city than a European one. It’s far more likely that Turkey’s own growing terrorism problem is the driver, but the possibility of spillover from Syria must be a factor too. The Russians may have drawn down, but their presence is still much stronger than it was a year ago, and it includes enough air power to blast ISIS out of the ancient city of Palmyra. A bad decision somewhere in the sky over Syria, or an act of recklessness by a Saudi pilot, could still put Incirlik in the firing line.

The question now is what to do with the evacuees. It’s not likely they’ll ever return to Turkey; Incirlik is likely to be an unaccompanied posting from now on. Most of them will head for Kaiserslautern initially, and those with children will have the option of staying at Ramstein until the end of the school year. After that, the majority will likely head back to the States.

Many of the families aren’t happy about leaving. Despite the deteriorating security situation, most of them felt safe on the base, and it’s always been a popular posting. Evacuation can have a financial impact too. A lot of spouses have been working on or around the base, and the sudden loss of their income is likely to hammer family budgets. The USAF is looking at ways to mitigate the damage as much as possible. They’re considering adjusting the tour lengths of personnel whose families are being evacuated, posting them on earlier than planned so they can be reunited with relatives. In the meantime though, one of the USA’s principal bases in the Middle East is clearing decks down to a wartime establishment. It doesn’t raise hopes of peace breaking out any time soon.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason grew up in the west of Scotland. After attending university he spent 14 years in the British Army and served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. Afterwards, he went to Afghanistan as a contractor, where he worked in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Camp Leatherneck. He now writes on a variety of topics including current affairs and military matters.
Fergus Mason

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