EUCOM extends Turkey travel ban over security concerns
November 10, 2015
The Defense Department extended on Tuesday an existing ban on personnel traveling to Turkey because of increased concern about possible attacks on Americans.
Active-duty troops, military contractors and civilian employees are all barred from unofficial travel to or within Turkey until Nov. 20, U.S. European Command said. However, after that date unofficial travel will still require general officer approval, it said. The restriction also applies to ship-to-shore travel from those on cruises that stop in Turkish ports.
A previous EUCOM ban has been in place until Nov. 9, but a continued threat of violence has prompted military leaders to continue the prohibition.
“The extremely volatile threat environment in the Republic of Turkey continues to evolve and currently represents a significantly increased collateral and possible direct, attack threat to Department of Defense (DOD) personnel, facilities and installations in Turkey,” U.S. Army Europe said in a statement. U.S. forces in Turkey are taking part in operations against Islamic State militants across the border in Syria and Iraq.
The military began halting travel to the country’s southeastern region in August, shortly after U.S. aircraft began conducting strikes from Incirlik Air Base.
In September, the Defense and State departments offered dependents of personnel stationed at Incirlik Air Base and nearby the city of Adana the option of returning to the United States. Last week, the Air Force also extended voluntary leave from Incirlik for another 30 days, giving family members more time to depart.
“This decision was not reached easily; it is based on the current security environment, the continuation of military operations and keeping our dependents’ best interests at the front of our decision-making process,” Col. John Walker, 39th Air Base Wing commander, said in a statement. “The safety and security of my airmen and their families is one of my top priorities.”
So far, 68 command-sponsored dependents from 29 families have used the early-departure program. The Air Force has also suspended families of servicemembers from moving to Incirlik for accompanied tours.
The various moves come in the wake of assorted deadly attacks in Turkey, some of which Ankara has blamed on the Islamic State. In October, more than 100 people were killed in a bombing in the Turkish capital of Ankara, an attack widely attributed to the militants.
In July, more than 30 people were killed in a similar attack in the southern border town of Suruc, an assault that prompted Turkey to begin allowing the U.S. to use Incirlik Air Base for airstrikes on Islamic State targets in neighboring Syria and Iraq.