A U.S. Air Force MQ-1 Predator prepares to land at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, after a November 2008 mission.

A U.S. Air Force MQ-1 Predator prepares to land at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, after a November 2008 mission. (Erik Gudmundson/U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. has conducted its first strike on an Islamic State target by a drone flown out of a Turkish air base, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

The strike Tuesday occurred after the U.S. began flying armed, unmanned aerial systems over the weekend out of Incirlik Air Base, a post in southern Turkey that was opened last week in an agreement between the countries’ governments to expand their cooperation in the fight against the Islamic State. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, could not say where the strike was conducted or whether it was successful.

The ability to fly armed aircraft out of Incirlik, Davis said, allows the U.S. and its Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve partners “to effectively and efficiently get more aircraft over targets in a timely fashion,” especially against Islamic State strongholds along the Turkey-Syria border.

Preparations have already begun to fly manned aircraft, including fighter jets, out of Incirlik. Davis said those operations could begin “in the near future,” once additional aircraft and troops are in place.

“The U.S., Turkey and other coalition nations in the region are committed in the fight against ISIL and pursuit of peace and stability in the region,” Davis said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group. “Basing aircraft in Turkey to support CJTF-OIR gives the coalition another strategic location from which to conduct operations.”

Davis said the U.S. will only conduct offensive strikes against the Islamic State out of Incirlik, but could also provide defensive strikes against other forces if they target the New Syrian Forces, a group of fighters who went through an extensive U.S. vetting, training and equipping program. New Syrian Forces have repeatedly been attacked by al-Qaida affiliate Nusra Front in northern Syria in recent days. The Pentagon did not address reports confirmed by a senior defense official Tuesday that at least one member of the New Syrian Forces was killed and five others were captured in those attacks. Twitter: CDicksteinDC

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Corey Dickstein covers the military in the U.S. southeast. He joined the Stars and Stripes staff in 2015 and covered the Pentagon for more than five years. He previously covered the military for the Savannah Morning News in Georgia. Dickstein holds a journalism degree from Georgia College & State University and has been recognized with several national and regional awards for his reporting and photography. He is based in Atlanta.

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