NORTH KURDISTAN (TURKEY)  – 13 March 2018 – Drawdown in Incirlik.

We may have just witnessed the next casualty of the U.S. policy in Syria: a sharply scaled-back U.S. presence at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, The Wall Street Journal reported this weekend. Built with U.S. help in the 1950s to help counter the Soviet Union, the base has in recent decades become a key node in the war on terror.

Driving the decision: “tensions between Washington and Ankara” regarding the former’s support for the YPG, a Kurdish militia in Syria. “In recent weeks, Turkey has pressed an assault on the Kurdish-dominated Afrin region of Syria, seeking to keep Kurdish-controlled territory away from its border. On Wednesday, the Turkish government demanded the U.S. prevent Kurdish fighters from moving toward Afrin.”

What’s changed at Incirlik?

For starters, “A squadron of American A-10 ground attack jets was moved from Incirlik to Afghanistan in January, leaving only refueling aircraft currently at the Turkish base.” As well, “the U.S. military has gradually reduced the number of military family members living on the base, shrinking its footprint in Turkey.”Another contributing factor, of course, is the “overall decline in the tempo of U.S. military operations against Islamic State. The decline reduces the need to base U.S. jet fighters and logistics aircraft at Incirlik… But the challenge of the U.S.-Turkish relationship has spurred the pointed discussion about the American military’s posture at Incirlik, according to U.S. military officials.”

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