WASHINGTON (AP) — The air base at Incirlik, Turkey, used by the U.S.-led coalition to launch airstrikes and other missions against the Islamic State group, remains without power four days after a failed coup. Officials say there has been no move yet to turn it back on.
The U.S. has been relying on back-up generators to run base facilities and continue flight operations out of Incirlik.
So far, officials say there hasn’t been much impact on the flights out of Incirlik, which include airstrike, surveillance, refueling and other missions. But some missions have been shifted to other locations, and officials won’t specify how many.
On Tuesday, U.S. officials said they still have no idea when or if the power will be turned back on, but they said that base operations can continue with the generator power. Over time, however, there could be more significant ramifications.
“I don’t believe it’s a limiting factor right now,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said when asked about the issue Monday. “I think it’s safe to say over time that it could become a limiting factor.”
Air conditioners, food storage and preparation, and other daily living requirements depend on power as much as the runway lighting and air operations systems do.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said he was not aware if the base power issue came up in when President Barack Obama spoke to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday. Carter spoke with Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik on Tuesday, and the Pentagon said they discussed the importance of operations at Incirlik Air Base, but officials refused to say if the power issue came up.
“If there’s no power at Incirlik or if we remain on generated power or generator power, that’s going to be a problem going forward,” Toner said. “But again, U.S. Central Command is looking at that and obviously has contingency plans in place to address that.”
Air Force Lt. Col Chris Karns, U.S. military spokesman at Air Force Central Command, said that some adjustments were made to launch air strikes from locations other than Incirlik, “to ensure persistent pressure was placed against” Islamic State militants. He said that aircraft location around the region provide options so that they can “deliver air power where needed.”
Navy Capt. Danny Hernandez, spokesman for U.S. European Command, said that U.S. officials have been working with the Turks “to restore commercial power following the disruption on Saturday – the conversations are taking place through Department of State, embassy and military channels to restore this commercial power. “
Erdogan told CNN that power was shut off at all military bases to reduce the risk that conspirators might be able to use them.
Turkey agreed a year ago to let the U.S.-led coalition launch airstrikes against the Islamic State group from the strategically located air base. Access to the base has been critical for the coalition, allowing the U.S. to get to targets in nearby Syria far more quickly.
U.S. officials have also said that the location — not far from IS strongholds across the border — also allows the coalition to conduct better surveillance over Syria and act more swiftly on intelligence than when it was limited to launching flights from places like Iraq, Jordan and the Gulf states.
“We were able to conduct the campaign previously, without having Incirlik. We have the ability to adjust our operations in such a way that we can account for problems or delays there,” Cook said. “We are hoping to have power restored and to maintain operations at Incirlik, but we will adjust as needed.”
AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report.