WASHINGTON, March 29, 2016 – Following the terrorist attack in Brussels and the constant threats of attacks from ISIS, the Department of Defense has ordered military family members to evacuate Turkey.
In a press release released on Tuesday, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said the order would affect 670 out of the total 770 dependents in the country with a focus on Incirlik, where an American used air base is located according to Military Times.
The evacuation “is intended to mitigate the risk to DoD elements and personnel, including family member’. Evacuation from Incirlik Air Base will include close to 700 families, spouses and children, who had been previously offered voluntary relocation back to the States.
In the announcement issued on Tuesday, Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, commander of U.S. European Command, said
“We understand this is disruptive to our military families, but we must keep them safe and ensure the combat effectiveness of our forces to support our strong ally Turkey in the fight against terrorism,” in a statement issued with the announcement Tuesday.
Turkey has also been subject to a travel ban for service members not on official business and civilians on Pentagon accompanied orders since last year.
The DOD says the evacuations are not in response to a specific threat or in response to last week’s terror attacks in Brussels, however due to increasing violence in Turkey, including the February 18th Ankara car bombing, has advisors taking a cautious approach.
The 2016 evacuation follows the voluntary evacuations of military dependents last September, when less than 10% of the roughly 900 military dependents left who will now have to leave
The base’s increased role in the fight against the Islamic terror group, as well as increased personnel and families of troops, have created new security concerns. Following the agreement between Turkey and the U.S. military to allow U.S. combat aircraft to stage attacks against ISIS, U.S. troops presence in Turkey has nearly doubled to 2,500 personnel.
Last summer, the Defense Department locked down the base preventing more than 5,000 troops, civilians and families from venturing outside the base’s main gate, as concerns over extremist attacks increased.
The State Department is also making a similar order, affecting family members of U.S. consulate staff working in Adana, Turkey. Last fall, The Pentagon issued a voluntary deadline of November 2, 2015 for military and civilians stationed at Adana, Turkey.
The State Department also warned against traveling to southeastern Turkey and has restricted travel by staff to Turkey, Secretary Kerry informed Turkey during a joint meeting on Monday.
More than 100 people have been killed in Turkey since the start of 2016. Two of these attacks were claimed by ISIS, while the others were carried out by Kurdish separatists. While the base is on lockdown, military officials previously closed the base’s school for children and sent assignments to children at home.
Incirlik has been vital to U.S. operations in Europe since the 1950s, as its proximity to the Soviet Union made it a key base during the Cold War. The base has also supported operations in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan.
By evacuating our bases, it can be seen by ISIS as a victory for them, as the U.S. begins to slowly leave bases behind during their fight against the terror group. The Defense Department needs to keep our military families safe but also needs a strategy to stop ISIS.