WASHINGTON (AP) — Hundreds of military and diplomatic family members near Incirlik air base in southern Turkey are being told they can leave the country, U.S. officials said Thursday, citing increased worries about security threats in the region.
The decision comes as Turkey takes a bigger role in the fight against Islamic State militants, joining the airstrike campaign and allowing expanded use of the Incirlik base by the U.S. for fighter jet and drone missions.
Officials said that U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, head of U.S. European Command, recommended the voluntary departure decision, pointing to specific calls by militants for lone wolf attacks against the air base. Breedlove also asked that officials consider broadening the plan to other parts of Turkey if needed. Officials said Defense Secretary Ash Carter endorsed it this week and left the door open for a wider plan, saying he would be willing to take another look at the matter in the future.
The decision affects only the families of U.S. troops at Incirlik and diplomats at the consulate in nearby Adana. Families aren't required to leave, but those who do would have their departures funded by the U.S. government. Defense Department schools will remain open for those who stay.
Officials said the State Department is issuing a travel warning for the region due to concerns about an increasing security threat.
The U.S. officials weren't authorized to discuss the matter publicly, so they spoke anonymously.