ISTANBUL - With U.S.-Turkish relations at their lowest ebb in decades, the future of a critical American air base in Turkey is increasingly in the spotlight.
The vast Incirlik Air Base, located in southern Turkey close to Syria, has been a longstanding symbol of U.S.-Turkish cooperation. At the height of the Cold War, it underscored America's commitment to its NATO partner against the Soviet Union.
"We have to underline the Incirlik is one of the most important bases in the Middle East with the placement of tactical nuclear weapons at the base," said professor Mesut Casin, a Turkish presidential foreign policy adviser. "This shows Turkey continues to support the value of the NATO organization."
It's widely reported that the United States retains around 50 nuclear free-fall bombs at the facility. During the Cold War, the weapons were relied on to deter vast Soviet ground forces massed on the Turkish border.
However, with Ankara and Washington at loggerheads over a myriad of issues, including Turkey's deepening ties with Russia and the removal of Turkey from a U.S. jet fighter program, the future of Incirlik is increasingly murky.
The Countering Turkish Aggression Act, a bipartisan bill under consideration in the U.S. Senate, would require the Trump administration to consider alternative bases for "personnel and assets" deployed at Incirlik. The bill comes in response to Ankara's offensive into Syria against a Kurdish militia, which is an ally in Washington's war against Islamic State.
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