By Leah Cerilli
Both the Pentagon and the U.S. Department of State have ordered family members of employees stationed in several Turkish regions, primarily in Incirlik Air Base, to leave due to security concerns, as reported by NBC.
Facilities in southern Turkey, as well as the provinces of Izmir and Mugla, have been evacuated. In a statement, Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove said the decision was made “in consultation with the Government of Turkey, our State Department, and our Secretary of Defense.”
According to the Washington Post, Breedlove added that the goal of the decision is to keep military families safe and to ensure that U.S. forces can be fully effective.
A separate advisory issued by the State Department said it ordered the evacuation of family members of their employees working at the U.S. consulate in Adana in south central Turkey, and in Izmir and Mugla provinces on the western coast. Official travel has been restricted to “mission critical” only and a travel advisory was issued, according to Russia Today.
The State Department warned that foreign and U.S. tourists have been explicitly targeted by terrorist organizations and that they should be especially careful to avoid any travel close to the Syrian border.
The Washington Post cites an estimate that about 670 people will be affected by the move, while 100 more living in Ankara and Istanbul will be allowed to stay.
There are multiple theories surrounding the primary concern behind the order. Many news outlets such as CNN believe it is linked to ISIS activity, citing a government official who provided that reason. Russia Today argues it could be due to Turkey’s crackdown against the Kurds in the southeast, near the borders with Syria and Iraq.
A few weeks prior to the order, Incirlik Air Base had been placed under Force Protection Condition Delta, the highest level of force protection that is used by military bases. Specifically, the Delta level means that either a terrorist attack has taken place in the immediate area or “intelligence has been received that terrorist action against a specific location or person is imminent,” according to military guidelines.
Schools have been closed with children receiving and completing assignments at home, and travel outside the base was banned. State Department spokesman John Kirby said that the decision to evacuate family members living in the Adana consulate was based on “running analysis of threats” rather than a single specific threat.
Incirlik is particularly valuable in the fight against ISIS because it is located about 100 miles from Syria’s border. As stated by Russia Today, the number of airmen at the base has skyrocketed from 1300 to 2500 since the Turkish government began allowing airstrikes against ISIS from Incirlik Air Base. The base was previously on lockdown in July 2015 due to terrorism concerns, prohibiting troops and civilians from leaving the gates.
The sentiment of an elevated risk is not just felt by the United States. Shortly following the announcement, Israel warned its citizens to leave Turkey as soon as possible and avoid any future travel