Turkish troops targeted in Afrin suicide attack

Turkish forces and Free Syrian Army members have seized control of Mt. Barsaya near the town of Afrin, a strategically important high point. (Reuters)
Updated 30 January 2018

Turkish troops targeted in Afrin suicide attack

ANKARA: A female Kurdish suicide bomber targeted Turkish troops on Sunday in Syria’s northwest region of Afrin, but caused no casualties, said the Turkish military.
The attacker, Avesta Khabur, was part of the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), the female component of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
“The attack was from a long distance, so the tank that was carrying soldiers wasn’t damaged,” Abdullah Agar, a security expert and retired special warfare and commando officer, told Arab News. “Ankara is showing great determination in continuing its operation.”
The New York Times said the attack “puts the US in the awkward position of allying with suicide bombers.”
Since the start of Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch in Afrin on Jan. 20, 597 Kurdish fighters have been “neutralized” — surrendered, killed or captured — said the Turkish military.
On Sunday, following heavy clashes, Turkish troops and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) captured the strategic Mount Bursaya in northern Syria.
Mount Bursaya was used by the YPG to strike the Turkish border town of Kilis and the Syrian city of Azaz with artillery, mortars and missiles.
On the fourth day of Operation Olive Branch, a YPG rocket hit a mosque in Kilis, killing two civilians. So far, seven Turkish soldiers and 13 FSA fighters have been killed in the campaign.
“It was known for a long time that the YPG was making preparations to conduct a suicide bombing,” Sertac Canalp Korkmaz, a researcher on security studies at ORSAM, a think tank in Ankara, told Arab News.
“Last week, weather conditions in Afrin were severe. On the battlefield, foggy weather allows terrorists to carry out suicide attacks,” he said. “But countermeasures by the Turkish military will help prevent such attacks.”
Korkmaz underlined Turkey’s significant combat experience against suicide bombing attempts.
“During last year’s Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria, the Turkish Army faced several suicide attacks by Daesh against military outposts,” he said.
Daesh and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have also carried out suicide attacks in Turkey, targeting civilians, including foreigners, and police officers.
On Monday, Turkish law-enforcement officials caught a Daesh suspect, Demet Tasar, who was wanted by Interpol. She and 19 other suspects were allegedly plotting suicide attacks in Turkey.
Last week, 1,166 people were detained throughout the country for suspected ties to the PKK, while 34 people were arrested for suspected links to Daesh.


Hundreds of employees fired from Turkey’s Incirlik air base

Updated 25 January 2020

Hundreds of employees fired from Turkey’s Incirlik air base

  • Incirlik Air Base is located in Turkey’s Adana province, near the Syrian border, and it has been a strategic element in ties between Ankara and Washington
  • It has also played a key role for the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against Daesh in Syria and Iraq in the past

ANKARA: More than 420 people working at a crucial military air base in southern Turkey have lost their jobs, with some analysts considering it symbolic of decreased cooperation levels with the US and as the Pentagon reconsiders Middle East deployments.
Incirlik Air Base is located in Turkey’s Adana province, near the Syrian border, and it has been a strategic element in ties between Ankara and Washington. It has also played a key role for the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against Daesh in Syria and Iraq in the past, as well as hosting US nuclear warheads.
The Colorado-based company Vectrus System Corporation, which provides day-to-day maintenance and operation services at the base, terminated the contracts of almost half of its employees at the base earlier this month.
“The base surged to support OIR,” Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told Arab News. “The Turkey-based staff for OIR has mostly left. So, the base is going back to its pre-OIR level of people, and that level requires less contractor support.”
Vectrus did not reply to Arab News’ request for comment about its decision to scale back at the base.
Joe Macaron, a resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, said the move was largely symbolic as the canceled contracts related to logistical support rather than the US military mission.
“But obviously, it comes against the background of some tensions in the US-Turkish relationship and previous hints by Ankara that it might reconsider the status of the Incirlik base,” he told Arab News. “The Pentagon is reconsidering its deployment across the Middle East and it might be looking to become less dependent on Incirlik without fully exiting this crucial military air base.”
Incirlik air base has been used in the past as a bargaining chip at times of tension between the two countries.
“Turkey may re-evaluate the status of the Incirlik Air Base if the US imposes sanctions,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last month in an interview with pro-government channel A-Haber, referring to the potential fallout from Turkey’s decision to buy an air defense system from Russia. 
Washington has threatened to use its Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act to punish Ankara for buying the S-400 system.
Seth J. Frantzman, who is executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, said reports of the US reducing presence at Incirlik, or challenges to the US presence there, have been growing over the last years.
“Whether these reports relate to changes or are just random is unclear and it is important to note that the large interests of the military and history tend to mean the US does not simply walk away from bases, even if it reduces its role slowly over time,” he told Arab News.
The US has invested heavily in the Jordanian Muwaffaq Salti Air Base to expand its presence there.