Concerns are growing over the reported presence of U.S. nuclear weapons at Incirlik, believed to be about 50 B61 gravity bombs. Last week the New York Times reported that officials from the State and Energy departments had reviewed plans for evacuating the nuclear weapons there.
By Stephen Losey
Published on AirForceTimes, Oct 14, 2019
The Air Force on Monday said it has made no changes to daily operations at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey even as Turkish forces continue to push into Syrian territory, which has prompted U.S. forces to pull back.
But concerns are growing over the reported presence of U.S. nuclear weapons at Incirlik, believed to be about 50 B61 gravity bombs. The New York Times on Monday reported that officials from the State and Energy departments over the weekend reviewed plans for evacuating the nuclear weapons there.
Not surprisingly, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek would not answer questions about possible nuclear weapons at Incirlik and whether they would be moved in a Monday email.
“The mission of the 39th [Air Base Wing at Incirlik] is to provide persistent surety and continuous air operations for the U.S., our allies and our partners and helps protect U.S. and NATO interests in the Southern Region by providing a responsive and operational air base ready to project integrated, forward-based airpower,” Stefanek said. But she stated there have been no daily operations changes at the base.
A senior official reportedly told the Times that the weapons “were now essentially [Turkish President Recep] Erdogan’s hostages” since removing the weapons would effectively spell the end of America’s alliance with Turkey, but keeping them there would leave them vulnerable.
The situation with Turkey, a NATO ally, has become increasingly volatile as Turkish forces tore into the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces after the U.S. pulled back and abandoned them.
A suspected Turkish artillery strike also landed about 300 meters from a U.S. commando outpost near Kobani, Syria, on Friday. Some troops and artillery experts believe the artillery strike was intentional, as the Turkish military had detailed grid coordinates showing them where American troops were. The Washington Post quoted a knowledgeable Army officer as saying artillery rounds had been fired on both sides of the outpost, creating a “bracketing effect.”
In response to the Turkish artillery fire, arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis tweeted, “Seriously, it’s time to take our fucking nuclear weapons out of Turkey.”
Seriously, it’s time to take our fucking nuclear weapons out of Turkey. https://t.co/DDK6EF208h
— Jeffrey Lewis (@ArmsControlWonk) October 12, 2019
The presence of nuclear weapons at Incirlik, though never publicly confirmed or denied by the U.S. government, has long been essentially an open secret. It became even less of a secret earlier this year when a Canadian senator published, apparently by accident, a document containing the bases where the United States is keeping nuclear weapons.