WASHINGTON — Turkey has agreed to let the U.S. military use a key air base near the border with Syria to launch airstrikes against the Islamic State, senior Obama administration officials said Thursday, giving a boost to the U.S.-led coalition amid a surge of violence in Turkey blamed on IS-linked militants.
The agreement, which President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed in a phone call Wednesday, follows months of U.S. appeals to Turkey and delicate negotiations over the use of Incirlik and other bases by the U.S.-led coalition — a sensitive topic in Turkey. American officials said access to the base in southern Turkey would allow the U.S. to move more swiftly and nimbly to attack IS targets.
Turkey has yet to publicly confirm the agreement, and the U.S. officials requested anonymity because they weren't authorized to comment publicly. The White House declined to confirm the agreement, citing operational security concerns, but White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama and Erdogan had discussed efforts to fight IS during their phone call Wednesday.
"The two leaders did agree that we would deepen our cooperation as we take on this ISIL threat," Josh Earnest said, using an alternative acronym for the militant group.
Turkey's consent came as the country finds itself drawn further into the conflict by a series of deadly incidents nearTurkey's long border with Syria, where IS controls broad swaths of territory. On Thursday, IS militants fired from Syrian territory at a Turkish military outpost, killing one Turkish soldier and prompting Turkish retaliation that killed at least one IS militant. Earlier in the week, a suicide bombing blamed on IS militants killed 32 people in Turkey, near the border.