19678 120 LINKEDIN 19 COMMENTMORE

Hundreds of U.S. military families are urged to leave southern Turkey amid new concerns about safety, a defense official said Thursday.

The voluntary evacuation potentially affects about 900 people and comes after Turkey recently authorized U.S. combat aircraft to fly missions over Iraq and Syria from a key Turkish military installation.

"This decision was made out of an abundance of caution following the commencement of military operations out of Incirlik Air Base," said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook.

The voluntary departure authorization is limited in scope to the Adana area near Incirlik; it does not apply to family members of military or civilian personnel in other cities, including Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir, Cook said.

"This is not being done because of any specific new threat. We've been at an elevated force protection level in Turkey, at Incirlik, for some time, now," he said.

About 1,800 U.S. troops are based at Incirlik. The military recently moved six F-16 combat jets to the base.

Turkey and the U.S. recently forged a historic agreement that has expanded Turkey's role in the fight against Islamic State militants by joining the coalition's airstrike campaign and granting the U.S. military expanded use of Incirlik for jet and drone missions.

Officials said U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, chief of the U.S. European Command, recommended the move on voluntary departures of family members, pointing to specific calls by militants for lone-wolf attacks on Incirlik.

Breedlove also asked that officials consider broadening the plan to other parts of Turkey if needed. Officials said Defense Secretary Ash Carter endorsed the move 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 are not 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 Air Force Personnel Center also said on Friday that accompanied permanent change-of-station moves to Adana have been suspended. Service members and civilians with approved dependent travel who have not yet out-processed from their current duty station should check with their local military or civilian personnel section to find out whether or not to continue with their travel, AFPC said.

Service members and civilians with approved dependent travel who are already on their way to Turkey should contact the personnel section of the station they just left, AFPC said.

Airmen also may call the Total Force Service Center at 800-525-0102 for guidance on their move, AFPC said.

AFPC said it has activated the web-based Air Force Personnel Accountability and Assessment System, which helps track personnel and their families who are affected by widespread catastrophic events, to make sure airmen and their families are accounted for.

AFPC spokesman Mike Dickerson said it is important for airmen affected by this emergency to log on to AFPAAS and complete a needs assessment, so Airman and Family Readiness Centers can help them.

The Associated Press and staff writer Stephen Losey contributed to this story.

19678 120 LINKEDIN 19 COMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://militari.ly/1UvfuFG