U.S. officials working on the diplomacy and intelligence components of the new war tell The Daily Beast that Ankara is still prohibiting the United States from flying manned aircraft from the U.S. airbase in Incirlik, Turkey. Instead, the Turks are allowing only drones to take off from the base.
“They are letting us do a ton of signals work,” a U.S. official working the issue said, using military jargon for the interception of hostile communications. “They have not objected to just about anything on the surveillance side. The fights have been about manned aircraft coming in and out.” The dispute over flying the manned aircraft has been a source of considerable tensions behind the scenes since the U.S. campaign against ISIS began in August. But the outlines of that dispute spilled out into the open this week.
National Security Advisor Susan Rice said Oct. 13 on Meet the Press that Turkey had agreed to let its bases be used in the fight against ISIS, but several senior Turkish officials rushed to deny Rice’s claim. “There is no decision at the moment concerning Incirlik or any other issue,” Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the next day. Turkey has publicly called for a no-fly zone and for airstrikes against the Assad regime. …
The Turkish press has also reported that some drones are flying out of Turkey. “There are activities that we are already undertaking jointly from Incirlik, concerning Iraq: the Predators, the reconnaissance flights can continue,” Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Milliyet earlier this month, referring to unmanned aerial vehicles. “But as a base for a more extensive operation — if they are expecting the contribution of any country — we have already made our position clear: there has to be a no-fly zone and a safe haven must be declared,” he said.