U.S. maintains bases in Turkey despite cooling relations

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Despite frosty relations, the United States continues to invest in maintaining its military presence in Turkey.

The Defense Department has awarded contracts to U.S. firms to support a military presence in several Turkish bases.

The Pentagon was angered by Turkey's refusal to allow a northern front in the war against Iraq. The United States had sought to deploy up to 60,000 troops for a long-term presence in Turkey.

In April, the U.S. military withdrew about 50 combat aircraft and more than 1,000 air force personnel from the Incerlik air base, Middle East Newsline reported.

Incerlik served as the headquarters for Northern Watch, which enforced the no-fly zone in northern Iraq during the last decade of the regime of President Saddam Hussein.

The U.S. military presence is part of the NATO force in Turkey that officials said has not been affected by the downturn in relations between Ankara and Washington.

The Pentagon has signaled its determination to maintain the U.S. presence in Turkey connected to the NATO force. The department awarded a $22.8 million contract to Vinnell-Kellogg Brown and Root, based in Fairfax, Va.

Officials said the contract is meant to provide base operation and maintenance services at Incirlik, Izmir and Ankara. They said these services would include program management, civil engineering and transportation, such as vehicle operations and maintenance.

Under the contract, Veinnel-Kellogg would also be required to provide contingency and exercise support. A Pentagon statement said the contractor will perform the majority of work in government-furnished facilities located at Incirlik Air Base and Izmir and Ankara, Turkey.

The contract is expected to be completed by September 2009. The statement said solicitation began November 2002.

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