For the first time, the United States launched manned airstrikes from a base in Turkey against ISIS forces in Syria, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
The attacks from Incirlik Air Base are part of an agreement reached last month between NATO allies Turkey and the United States.
The United States has long wanted to use Turkish bases for manned airstrikes against ISIS in Syria and parts of Iraq. Such access should shorten flight times for U.S. (and presumably allied) fighter jets — especially into Syria, where the group calling itself the Islamic State has its de facto capital, Raqqa — compared with taking off from bases in Iraq or aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf.
Washington has made going after ISIS one of its national security priorities.
While it has helped train moderate Syrian rebels as well as Iraqi forces, the U.S. military hasn’t put any of its troops in combat roles — though Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Army’s outgoing chief of staff, said such a move should be an option if more progress isn’t made against ISIS.
So far, the air campaign has been America’s biggest tool in its fight. Turkey’s cooperation in this regard, paved by a July deal between President Barack Obama and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan allowing for the expanded access, should be a big help.