Mueller Probes Flynn’s Role in Alleged Plan to Deliver Cleric to Turkey

Under alleged plan, ex-Trump adviser and his son were to be paid millions to forcibly remove Fethullah Gulen from U.S. and deliver him to Turkish custody

Former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn already faces military, congressional and criminal investigations into allegations that he improperly concealed his financial ties to Turkey and Russia, and into whether the ties played any role in his decisions as the president’s adviser.
Former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn already faces military, congressional and criminal investigations into allegations that he improperly concealed his financial ties to Turkey and Russia, and into whether the ties played any role in his decisions as the president’s adviser. PHOTO: CARLOS BARRIA/REUTERS

WASHINGTON—Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating former White House national security adviser Mike Flynn’s alleged role in a plan to forcibly remove a Muslim cleric living in the U.S. and deliver him to Turkey in return for millions of dollars, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Under the alleged proposal, Mr. Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., were to be paid as much as $15 million for delivering Fethullah Gulen to the Turkish government, according to people with knowledge of discussions Mr. Flynn had with Turkish representatives. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has pressed the U.S. to extradite him, views the cleric as a political enemy.

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents have asked at least four individuals about a meeting in mid-December at the ‘21’ Club in New York City, where Mr. Flynn and representatives of the Turkish government discussed removing Mr. Gulen, according to people with knowledge of the FBI’s inquiries. The discussions allegedly involved the possibility of transporting Mr. Gulen on a private jet to the Turkish prison island of Imrali, according to one of the people who has spoken to the FBI.

The Wall Street Journal previously reported on efforts by Turkish officials to get Mr. Gulen to Turkey without going through the U.S. extradition legal process, an effort that included an earlier meeting with Mr. Flynn in September 2016.

The investigation is being handled by Mr. Mueller as part of his probe of Trump campaign advisers and Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to those familiar with the investigation.

A spokesman for Mr. Mueller declined to comment.

The people who described the alleged proposal said they didn’t attend the December meeting and didn’t have direct knowledge from Mr. Flynn or his associates about its purported details. It isn’t clear how advanced Mr. Mueller’s investigation of the alleged plan to remove Mr. Gulen is, nor is there any indication that any money changed hands, according to those familiar with the discussions and the FBI investigation.

But federal investigators’ interest in whether Mr. Flynn was pursuing potentially illegal means to forcibly deal with Mr. Gulen indicates that the former Trump adviser faces another investigation stemming from his work on behalf of Turkish government interests, both before and after the presidential election.

After this article was published, Mr. Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner, called the plot allegations “outrageous and prejudicial,” adding, “they are false.” A lawyer for Mr. Flynn Jr. declined to comment.

Before entering the Trump administration as the president’s national security adviser, Mr. Flynn was lobbying on behalf of Turkish interests in the U.S., including on the Gulen issue. He didn’t disclose that work until March of this year, after he was forced out of the White House for misleading Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. Mr. Flynn served as national security adviser for just 24 days.

He is now facing military, congressional and criminal investigations into allegations that he improperly concealed his financial ties to Turkey and Russia, and into whether the ties played any role in his decisions as the president’s adviser, The Wall Street Journal has previously reported.

One person familiar with the alleged discussions about Mr. Gulen said Mr. Flynn also was prepared to use his influence in the White House to further the legal extradition of the cleric, who lives in Pennsylvania.

Turkey has pressed the U.S. to extradite Fethullah Gulen, who lives in a compound in Saylorsburg, Pa.
Turkey has pressed the U.S. to extradite Fethullah Gulen, who lives in a compound in Saylorsburg, Pa. PHOTO:SASHA MASLOV FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Mr. Gulen’s legal residency in the U.S. became a major irritant in American and Turkish relations during the Obama administration, and Turkish officials pressed for Mr. Gulen’s extradition so that he could face charges. Mr. Erdogan’s government has accused the cleric of masterminding a failed coup and have called him and his supporters a terrorist network. Mr. Gulen denies both accusations.

The alleged meeting in New York in December, which came after Mr. Flynn was tapped as national security adviser, was a follow-up to an earlier discussion, on Sept. 19, where Turkish officials first raised the possibility of forcibly removing Mr. Gulen. That September meeting, held in a hotel and attended by former CIA Director James Woolsey,was reported earlier by the Journal.

Ex-CIA Head Woolsey on Flynn, Covert Plan

WSJ Exclusive: Ex-CIA Head Woolsey on Flynn, Covert Plan
In an exclusive WSJ interview, former CIA Director James Woolsey describes a meeting where Mike Flynn and others discussed a covert plan to move Fethullah Gulen back to Turkey and avoid the U.S. extradition process. (March 27, 2017)

Mr. Gulen’s removal was discussed as “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away,” according to Mr. Woolsey, who said he attended the meeting at the request of one of Mr. Flynn’s business associates.

Also present at the September meeting were Mr. Erdogan’s son-in-law and Turkey’s foreign minister, foreign-lobbying disclosure documents show. The Turkish Embassy has previously acknowledged that Turkish officials met with Mr. Flynn but declined to discuss the conversation.

A White House spokesman deferred all questions to a spokesman for the Trump transition process.

“We don’t have any evidence that such a meeting took place,” that spokesman said, referring to the December meeting. “And if it did take place it happened not withstanding the transition.”

At the time the plan was discussed, Turkey had been lobbying Obama administration officials for months to release Mr. Gulen to Turkish custody and wanted to avoid a legal extradition proceeding, according to a former official with direct knowledge of Turkish and American discussions. The Obama administration rebuffed those requests, the official said.

In Mr. Flynn, the Turks found a more sympathetic ear. Mr. Flynn wrote an op-ed published in The Hill on the day of the presidential election in which he praised Mr. Erdogan’s government and called the cleric “a shady Islamic mullah” and “radical Islamist” who may be running “a dangerous sleeper terror network” in the U.S.

“We should not provide him safe haven,” Mr. Flynn wrote.

Mr. Woolsey said he informed the U.S. government about the September meeting by notifying Vice President Joe Biden through a mutual friend.

The mutual friend confirmed to the Journal that he told Mr. Biden about the meeting. Mr. Biden’s spokeswoman declined to comment on the matter, other than to say Mr. Biden felt the Gulen matter should be handled through the courts.

Mr. Woolsey, who served briefly as an adviser to the Trump campaign, said he turned down a consulting fee from Mr. Flynn’s company because of what he heard at the meeting.

Federal records show that the company, Flynn Intel Group, was paid $530,000 for advocacy work that “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.”

Federal investigators are currently looking at whether Mr. Flynn’s work on behalf of Turkey violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires people to disclose when they are acting in the U.S. on behalf of foreign powers, according to people with knowledge of the investigation.

Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has been indicted by the special counsel on charges stemming from his work for the former government of Ukraine, which he didn’t properly disclose to U.S. authorities, according to federal charges disclosed last month. Mr. Manafort’s attorney has entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf.

The Journal reported in March that Mr. Flynn had sought immunity from investigators probing Russia’s interference in the presidential election in exchange for his testimony. Mr. Flynn’s attorney, Mr. Kelner, wouldn’t comment at the time on details of his discussions involving Mr. Flynn, but said “General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit.”

Mr. Flynn, who was fired in 2014 as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, is a central figure in the sprawling special counsel investigation, which is examining whether Trump campaign or business associates coordinated with the Russian government in its efforts to steal private emails from political groups and campaigns and expose them publicly. Mr. Flynn’s contacts with the then-Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, have been scrutinized as part of that probe, according to people with knowledge of the investigation.

President Trump has denied that his campaign colluded with Russia. The Russians have consistently denied interfering in the election.

Write to Shane Harris at and Aruna Viswanatha at


Turkey arrests a thousand police accused of links to US-based cleric Gulen

Turkish authorities have arrested 1,000 police suspected links to the Gulen movement. Since last year’s failed coup, more than 10,000 police have been arrested.

Watch video01:16

Turkey arrests hundreds of alleged Gulen supporters

Turkish authorities on Wednesday detained 1,009 people with suspected ties to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, in one of the largest recent operations against the network Ankara blames for last year’s failed coup attempt.

Some 8,500 police were involved in operations in all of Turkey’s 81 provinces, which prosecutors said targeted secret Gulenists within the police force.

Since last July’s failed coup attempt, Turkey has arrested nearly 50,000 people, including 10,700 police officers and 7,400 military personnel, according to the interior ministry. Some 120,000 people have been fired or suspended from the military, police and bureaucracy for suspected ties to the Gulen movement.

Turkey accuses the Gulen movement of creating a “parallel state structure” over decades, infiltrating the military, police, judiciary, media and other institutions before attempting a coup. Gulen, a former ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, denies the charges.

The scale of the purges within the military and police have raised concerns over the capability and rising politicization of security forces. The crackdown also drawn criticism over deteriorating human rights. 

The arrests come 10 days after a referendum passed granting Erdogan expanded powers. The referendum was marked by allegations of widespread voter fraud.

Watch video04:03

Referendum – Turkey at a crossroads

German-born Kurdish politician detained, released

Separately, a parliamentarian with the pro-Kurdish HDP on Tuesday was detained by police before being released the same day, Turkish media reported.

Feleknas Uca was detained in Diyarbakir under a court order for failing to give a deposition in a court case against her.  She was released after being brought to the court to make a statement.

Türkei Feleknas Uca HDP Politikerin (Getty Images/AFP/I. Akengin)Feleknas Uca protects a woman from a plainclothes police officer during an October protest against the detention of Diyarbakir’s co-mayors.

Uca faces up to 15 years in prison for “membership in a terrorist organization.” The charges against her relate to various statements and attendance at rallies.

The German-born Uca is a former member of the European Parliament for the Party of Democratic Socialism, a predecessor of Germany’s Left Party. She was the world’s first Yazidi member of parliament.

More than a dozen Kurdish parliamentarians are currently in prison on allegations of ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

cw/jm (AP, Reuters)




European migration nears 1 million mark, IOM says

More than 990,000 migrants have entered Europe and the number is expected to reach 1 million in the coming days, the International Organization for Migration has said. EU’s Frontex border agency is beefing up its forces.

Flüchtlinge an der türkisch-bulgarischen Grenze

The Geneva-based International Organization for Migration said Friday that nearly 991,000 men, women and children had been logged entering Europe this year with the numbers continuing to rise.

“We see flows so strong this late in the year that perhaps by Tuesday, perhaps even before then, IOM estimates the 1 million mark will pass,” IOM spokesman Joel Millman told reporters. “This is extraordinary.”

One million migrants would be at least four times more than last year.

The announcement came on International Migrants Day and as the UN refugee agency reported that global upheaval from war, strife and poverty has put an unprecedented number of people on the move with around 1 in 122 of the world’s population uprooted.

The outflow from the war-torn Middle East and poverty stricken Africa has come at a grave human cost. The IMO has recorded at least 422 deaths at sea since October 16, an average of seven a day.

“Obviously this is very alarming and we are not looking forward to a winter like last year,” Millman said. “But from what we can see the flows remain robust and dangerous.”

Griechenland Flüchtlinge Lesbos SymbolbildSome 770,000 refugees from the Middle East and Africa have crossed to the Aegean islands in flimsy boats

Treacherous sea crossing from Turkey

Yet people still risk the journey to Europe. Roughly 4,300 people arrived from the Turkish coast to nearby Greek islands on Wednesday.

Four Iraqi migrants – two of them children – drowned after a boat taking them to the Greek island of Kos sank off the Turkish coast early Friday, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

The EU controversially pledged Turkey 3 billion euros ($3.25 billion) to prevent migrants from trying to reach the EU from Turkish territory. Rights groups have criticized the plan, saying it does not do enough to ensure Ankara treats refugees suitably. Rights groups have also reported that refugees have been sent back to conflict zones.

EU officials, however, said they are so far pleased that migrants appear to be intercepted by Turkish police and prevented from trying to cross to Europe.

“For us it is important to continue work with Turkey on the implementation of the action plan,” Frans Timmermans, deputy head of the European Commission said. “I’m strongly encouraged to do that because of the positive and proactive attitude of Prime Minister [Ahmet] Davutoglu.”

Grenze Bulgarien Türkei SicherheitszaunBoosting Frontex is a key element in the EU’s response to refugees from the Middle East and Asia

EU tightening external borders

Several European countries have responded to the refugee crisis by erecting walls and fences and beefing up border forces as more and more people continue to try and reach the EU in search of better living conditions.

The EU’s border agency, Frontex, said it plans to use its increased 2016 budget to deploy more border police, purchase equipment to register arrivals and lease aircraft and vehicles for increased patrols.

The EU wants to replace the agency with a European Border and Coast Guard with a dedicated 1,500-strong force empowered to operate anywhere within the 28-nation bloc – regardless of whether the EU countries affected want the Frontex officers’ support.

That proposal – especially the right to deploy EU border guards without being invited by a member state – has run into opposition from several EU members.

Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri welcomed the proposal to expand his agency’s powers and increased its budget from 143 million euros in 2015 to 238 million next year. By 2020, the new agency could have budget of 322 million euros.

“For me it’s a very positive proposal because it’s in line with the needs we have and it’s also in line with the reality,” Leggeri told Reuters on Thursday.

Highlighting difficulties in receiving resources from the 28 individual member states, Leggeri said that out of the 775 additional border guards he requested this fall, so far only around 450 had arrived.

“I don’t want to blame member states because most of them just reached their limits,” Leggeri said. “That’s why this marks a big change – more border guards and more equipment available for crisis management would give the agency more operational autonomy.”

Watch video05:10

The hope for a new home

jar/sms (Reuters, AP)



Putin basks in the limelight of global media

Russian President Vladimir Putin has admitted that military personnel were active in east Ukraine, criticized Turkey’s leadership and mused on the future of Syria. He did it in front of some 1,400 journalists.

Russland Jahrespressekonferenz Präsident Wladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin admitted on Thursday during his annual press conference that Russian military personnel were in eastern Ukraine carrying out “certain military tasks” – though he denied a regular troop presence in the region.

“We never said there were no people there who were carrying out certain tasks including in the military sphere,” Putin told an annual news conference. “But that does not mean there are Russian troops there, feel the difference.”

His remarks are a shift in the oft-repeated line that Russia is not backing pro-Moscow separatists who have been warring with pro-Kiev forces since last year. Putin also said Moscow is ready to persuade separatists to work toward a political compromise and said he expects relations with Ukraine to further deteriorate following its decision to enter a trade deal with the European Union.

Russland Jahrespressekonferenz Präsident Wladimir PutinSome 1,400 journalists packed Moscow’s World Trade Center for Putin’s annual press conference.

On Syria

The 63-year-old president said Russia’s military operations in Syria will continue until talks over a meaningful political settlement get underway.

He added that once the Syrians decide it’s time to stop fighting and open dialogue, “[Moscow won’t] be more Syrian than the Syrians themselves,” and will wrap up its military strikes that include air raids and cruise missiles against foes of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Putin, who met with US Secretary of State John Kerry earlier this week, said Moscow supports a US draft of a UN Security Council resolution on Syria.

On Turkey

Putin had harsh words for Ankara as relations have nose-dived since Turkey downed a Russian warplane it said had violated its airspace for a matter of seconds.

“We see the action of the Turkish authorities towards our plane … as a hostile act,” Putin said. “It is hard for us to reach agreement with the current Turkish leadership, if at all possible.”

He said Moscow would not be cowed by Turkey, a NATO member. “What have they achieved? Maybe, they thought that we would run away from there (Syria)? But Russia is not such a country,” Putin said.

Watch video00:43

Putin says Turkey acted contrary to its own interests

During the wide-ranging press conference, many members of the Russian press corps cheered and applauded and asked fawning questions.

Political fixture?

Putin, who has largely led the country as either president or prime minister since being anointed prime minister in 1999 by his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, gave no indication he was on track to relax his grip on power or shake up his inner circle.

Riffing on the theme of political stability, Putin said there were no surprises in store.

“I am very considerate towards people, as is seen from my long stint in the job, and I think that personnel reshuffles, as a rule, are disruptive,” he told reporters. “There are no significant changes in the pipeline.”

But he did admit that Russia, a major energy exporter, faces acute economic challenges especially as oil prices plunge to new lows. “We had calculated next year’s budget based on $50 per barrel,” he said. “This is a very optimistic valuation today. Now it’s already $38. That’s why we will have to correct something there.”

But he moved to assure the public that the economy is on the upswing.

“The Russian economy has passed the crisis. At least, the peak of the crisis,” he said.

jar/sms (AP, Reuters,dpa)



Russia fires warning shot at Turkish fishing boat in Aegean

  • 2 hours ago
  • From the sectionEurope
Smetlivy - photo taken from the Russian defence ministry's websiteImage copyrightRussian defence ministry website
Image captionThe Russian frigate, the Smetlivy, was anchored just off the Greek island of Lemnos when the incident happened

Russia says one of its warships fired warning shots at a Turkish fishing vessel in the Aegean Sea to avoid a collision.

A Russian defence ministry statement said the Turkish vessel approached to 600m (1,800ft) before turning away in response to Russian small arms fire.

The Turkish military attache in Moscow has been summoned to the foreign ministry over the incident.

Relations remain tense over Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian bomber.

The Russian SU-24 bomber was shot down by two Turkish F-16s in the Turkish border-Syria area on 24 November. Turkey maintained the plane crossed into its airspace, although Russia disputes this.

And last week, Turkey complained over what it said was a sailor on a Russian naval ship brandishing a missile launcher as the vessel passed through Istanbul. Russia rejected the criticism saying the crew had a “legal right” to protect the ship.

464 gray line

Timeline: Russia-Turkey tensions

24 November – A Turkish F-16 fighter jet shoots down a Russian Su-24 attack aircraft, allegedly because it violated Turkish airspace. Russia denies the claim and insists the aircraft had been in Syrian airspace. A Russian pilot is killed parachuting from the jet, and a Russian marine is killed in a subsequent rescue mission.

28 November – With Turkey refusing to apologise over the incident, Russia announces a package of economic sanctions against Turkey, including restrictions on imports and travel

6 December – Turkey condemns Russian “provocation” after Turkish media publish showing a Russian serviceman holding a rocket launcher aboard a warship passing through the Bosphorus.

13 December – Russia fires “warning shots” at a Turkish fishing vessel that it says was approaching its warship in the Aegean Sea.

Presidential war of words

Impact on Russian-Turkish relations

Turkey downs Russian fighter jet – what we know

464 gray line

In the latest incident, Russia’s defence ministry said its frigate Smetlivy was anchored just off the Greek island of Lemnos on Sunday morning when it spotted the Turkish fishing boat heading towards it some 1,000m (3,000ft) away.

“Despite numerous attempts by the crew of the Smetlivy, the crew of the Turkish fishing boat did not make radio contact and did not respond to visual signals by semaphore or warning flares,” the ministry said in a statement.

To prevent a collision, “small arms were fired in the direction of the Turkish vessel from a range that is not lethal”.

The ministry said that “immediately after that the Turkish vessel drastically changed course” and passed within half a kilometre of the Smetlivy, still making no contact with the Russian crew.

Turkey has not yet given its response to the incident.

Russian ship in Sevastopol, 2014Image copyrightAFP
Image captionVessels from the Russian Black Sea fleet are stationed off Syria

Russian military vessels are involved in Russia’s intervention against rebels in Syria.

President Vladimir Putin described as a “stab in the back” Turkey’s downing of the Russian bomber and has imposed economic sanctions.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned on Friday that Ankara’s patience with Russia was “not unlimited”, and accused Moscow of using “every opportunity” to punish Turkey for the downing of the plane.

Putin orders economic sanctions against Turkey over downing of jet

Vladimir Putin has approved a raft of economic sanctions against Turkey in retaliation for the downing of a Russian warplane by Turkish forces. The move came after Turkey’s Erdogan expressed regret over the incident.

Vladimir Putin

President Putin on Saturday signed a decree which bans the import of some Turkish products and forbids Russian firms from hiring Turkish citizens.

The measures also include orders to suspend visa-free travel for Turkish citizens, end charter flights from Russia to Turkey, and for Russian tourism companies to stop selling trips to Turkey – a favorite holiday destination for many Russians.

The Kremlin said the decree aimed to “ensure Russia’s national security and protect Russian citizens from criminal and other illegal activities.”


Moscow and Ankara fueling the fire from downed plane

Turkish President Erdogan said he wanted to talk “face to face” with Russia’s Putin about the downing of the Russian plane. The two countries continue to trade blame, with Moscow preparing to retaliate economically. (27.11.2015)

Erdogan ‘saddened’ by downing of Russian jet

Calm tensions, Turkey’s Davutoglu tells Russia

Russia prepares raft of economic measures against Turkey

It also said the operations of Turkish companies in Russia would face restrictions, and ordered the government to prepare a list of goods, firms and jobs that would be affected.

‘We wish it hadn’t happened’

The measures, published on the Kremlin’s website, came hours after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was “truly saddened” by Tuesday’s incident, which saw Turkish F-16 jets shoot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian-Turkish border.

“We wish it hadn’t happened as such, but unfortunately such a thing has happened. I hope that something like this doesn’t occur again,” he said.

It was the first partly conciliatory statement from the Turkish leader since the jet’s downing, which has angered Russia and led to a breakdown in relations between the two countries. Turkey insists the plane violated its airspace and was sent repeated warnings to change its course. Moscow says it never left Syrian territory and was fired at without notice.

Russian fighter jetTurkey says it won’t apologize for shooting down the Russian jet

Addressing his supporters in the western city of Balikesir on Saturday, Erdogan warned that neither country should allow the situation to escalate and take a destructive form that would have “dire consequences in the future.” He also renewed his call for a “face to face” meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Paris climate talks next week.

“What we tell Russia is: ‘Let’s resolve this issue between ourselves and within its boundaries. Let’s not make others happy by destroying our whole relationship,” Erdogan said.

“Russia is important for Turkey as much as Turkey is important for Russia. Both countries cannot afford to give up on each other.”

Russia ‘mobilized’

President Putin, who condemned the incident as a “treacherous stab in the back,” has since refused to take telephone calls from the Turkish leader. He has also demanded an apology.

It’s not yet clear whether Erdogan and Putin will get a chance to meet in Paris

Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, on Saturday said the Russian leader was aware of Erdogan’s request for a meeting, but gave no indication about whether it might take place. Peskov called the Turkish air force’s behavior “absolute madness” and said Ankara’s handling of the crisis resembled the “theater of the absurd.”

“Nobody has the right to traitorously shoot down a Russian plane from behind,” Peskov told Russia’s “News on Saturday” TV program, adding that the president was “mobilized, fully mobilized, mobilized to the extent that circumstances demand.”

Russian authorities had been warning for days that Moscow planned to impose a string of economic sanctions . Turkey, for its part, has advised its citizens to avoid traveling to Russia, saying Turkish travelers were facing “problems” in the country.

nm/rc (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)

6 US F-16 fighter jets arrive at Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base to join fight against IS

Published August 09, 2015


A Turkish Air Force F-16 jet fighter prepares to take off from an air base in this file photo taken in Konya. (Reuters)

Six U.S. F-16 fighter jets arrived at Turkey’s southern air base on Sunday to join the U.S.-led coalition fight against ISIS militants, the U.S. military said.

The U.S. European Command said in a statement that the U.S. air force deployed a “small detachment” of six F-16 jets, support equipment and about 300 personnel at Incirlik Air Base. The detachment is part of the 31st Fighter Wing based at Aviano Air Base, in Italy, it said.

Turkey carried out airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria last month following a suicide bombing that killed 32 people and the killing of a soldier by ISIS militants and agreed to allow the U.S. to use the strategically-located base. The moves ended months of reluctance by Turkey, giving it a more active role in the U.S.-led coalition against the extremist group.

Last week, U.S. armed drones taking off from Incirlik struck ISIS positions, and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said an “extensive” fight against the extremists would soon begin.

“The United States and Turkey, as members of the 60-plus nation coalition, are committed to the fight against ISIL in the pursuit of peace and stability in the region,” the U.S. military said, using an alternative name for the militant group.

Turkish media reports say the U.S. is expected to deploy around 30 fighter jets at Incirlik for strikes against ISIS.

Incirlik is located close to ISIS strongholds across the border in Syria, allowing the U.S. to move more swiftly and nimbly against ISIS targets. Its use would enable the U.S. -led coalition to conduct better surveillance over Syria and act quicker on intelligence than when it was limited to launching flights from places like Iraq, Jordan and the Gulf states.