As a NATO ‘ally’, Turkey is home to thousands of U.S. servicemen and women. Turkey has also become home to an increasing number of ISIS terrorists. Couple those two realities with a recent ISIS kidnapping plot, that involved ISIS contracting Turkish gang members and there is certainly cause for increased vigilance and security precautions to be put in place due to a seemingly new threat:
A bold yet ultimately unsuccessful kidnapping plot orchestrated by the Islamic State in Turkey raises new questions about the safety of U.S. troops and other American personnel stationed throughout the country.
The attempted abduction, reportedly carried out by Turkish gang members whom the Islamic State enticed with a promise of $500,000, targeted a popular Syrian rebel commander who had crossed into Turkey seeking refuge from ongoing violence across the border, according to a report by the Washington Post. It was a close call for the commander, who was shot in the stomach before managing to escape — and the clearest indication yet that the Islamic State has established a potent network inside Turkey, the Post reported.
The incident occurred in Sanliurfa about 220 miles east of Incirlik Air Base, which is home to thousands of U.S. airmen and their families. Air Force personnel also are stationed in Ankara and Izmir, and the Army maintains two Patriot missile batteries — a rotational force of about 250 soldiers — in Gaziantep, about 150 miles west of Sanliurfa.
An Air Force spokesman declined to say whether airmen in Turkey are taking extra security precautions in light of the kidnapping attempt.
“In regards to increased security measures, we do not comment due to operational security concerns. However, the safety of our airmen and their families remains one of our top priorities,” Capt. William-Joseph J. Mojica told Military Times on Wednesday. “Additionally our airmen are trained to remain vigilant at all times, and we have programs in place for them to report suspicious activities.”
No one is taking the threat lightly, though. Earlier this month, U.S. military officials in Europe told local-level commanders they should consider instructing U.S. troops not to wear their uniforms off base. Similarly, when the U.S. began airstrikes against the Islamic State in September, the U.S. embassy in Ankara issued a message telling Americans throughout Turkey to be cautious and monitor local news.
Asked Wednesday if U.S. troops in Turkey face any travel restrictions, Navy Capt. Greg Hicks, a spokesman for U.S. European Command, deferred comment to officials at the embassy in Ankara.
“We have allowed commanders leeway to adjust force protection measures depending on local conditions,” Hicks said.
As if the ISIS presence inside Turkey isn’t bad enough, it now appears to be brokering out some of its work.