Pentagon Orders Military Families out of Turkey Due to ISIS Threat
Posted: Mar 29, 2016 1:18 PM CDT
Washington (CNN)The U.S. military has ordered military family members to evacuate southern Turkey, primarily from Incirlik Air Base, due to security concerns, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
Family members will also be evacuated from facilities in Izmir and Mugla, according to a Pentagon statement.
"The decision to move our families and civilians was made in consultation with the Government of Turkey, our State Department, and our Secretary of Defense," Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, commander of U.S. European Command, said in the statement.
A U.S. defense official told CNN that the base had been placed under Force Protection Condition Delta for weeks, the highest level of force protection for U.S. military bases. Delta level means that either a terrorist attack has just taken place in the immediate vicinity or "intelligence has been received that terrorist action against a specific location or person is imminent," according to military guidelines.
A U.S. official said the evacuation decision was made because of the ongoing threats concerning possible ISIS attacks.
The State Department is also ordering the departure of family members of staff at the U.S. consulate in Adana, except for family members who also work at the diplomatic post.
"The safety and security of U.S. citizens living abroad are top priorities, and we take very seriously the responsibility for ensuring the security of members of the entire official American community," a State Department spokesman said. "In close coordination with the Department of Defense, we will continue to evaluate our security posture in Turkey and worldwide."
In addition, the State Department issued a travel warning for Turkey, stating that, "The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey and to avoid travel to southeastern Turkey."
Nearly 100 people have been killed in Turkey in five separate terrorist attacks since the start of 2016. Two of these attacks were attributed to ISIS while the others were carried out by Kurdish separatists.
About 670 U.S. family members remain at facilities in Incirlik, Izmir and Mugla, according to the official.
The same official said the military had already closed the base's Department of Defense School for children for weeks, with assignments being sent to children at home.
"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," Breedlove said.
In addition, 287 pets from military families are also leaving Turkey.
In September, the State Department and Pentagon authorized the voluntary departure of the 900 family members of personnel stationed at Incirlik and at the U.S. consulate in Adana, Turkey.
At the time, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said the move was done "out of an abundance of caution."
That decision did not apply to family members of military or civilian personnel in other cities, including Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir.
The base is the permanent home to units of the Turkish Air Force and the U.S. Air Force's 39th Air Base Wing, which includes about 1,500 American service personnel, according to the base's website.
After months of negotiations, the U.S. military population grew significantly after Turkey agreed to open up the base to U.S. war planes participating in airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Incirlik is strategically vital to the counter-ISIS campaign, as it's located about 100 miles from the Syrian border.
The U.S. began using Incirlik during the 1950s, and its proximity to the Soviet Union made it a key installation during the Cold War.
The base has supported numerous U.S. operations in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan over its long history.