In the wake of the coup attempt that left nearly 250 people dead and over 1,000 injured, relations between Washington and Ankara have been strained. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on the US to extradite political and religious figure Fethullah Gulen, blamed for the attempt, and has even accused Washington of being complicit in the attempt.
Turkey is a key American ally and the US Air Force relies on Incirlik Air Base to conduct anti-Daesh operations. In an effort to cement ties, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the top US military officer, traveled to the base on Monday.
"He will deliver messages condemning in the strongest terms the recent coup attempt and reaffirming the importance of our enduring partnership for regional security as symbolized by coalition operations out of Incirlik in the counter-ISIL fight," said Dunford’s spokesman, Navy Capt. Greg Hicks, ahead of the visit, according to Stars and Stripes.
Dunford also met with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and Gen. Hulusi Akar, head of Turkey’s general staff, in Ankara.
"It is important that the United States, our friend and ally, display a clear and decisive stance against this terrorist coup attempt against our nation and democracy," Yildirim said during the meeting.
As tensions between the two countries sour, Incirlik has been the focus of a number of protests. Last week, over 5,000 people participated in anti-American demonstrations, demanding that the base be closed.
The Pentagon has remained adamant that it has no intention of moving its forces at the base.
"There is no plan to move out of Incirlik whatsoever," US Air Force Secretary Deborah James said last Tuesday.
Roughly 150 protesters marched to the US embassy in Ankara head of Dunford’s arrival, chanting "coup plotter Dunford get out of Turkey." Others carried banners reading "Dunford go home. Send us Fethullah."
Over the weekend, Turkish police sealed off access to Incirlik, claiming it was a routine safety inspection. This led to speculation that a second coup attempt was underway.