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US Withdraws 12 Fighter Jets from Turkey


FILE - An F-15E Strike Eagle sits on the flightline at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, in October 2010.

FILE - An F-15E Strike Eagle sits on the flightline at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, in October 2010.

The U.S. military has announced it is withdrawing a dozen fighter jets from Turkey and returning them to their base in Britain.

In November, six F-15E Strike Eagles were deployed to Turkey to conduct strikes in Syria and Iraq against the Islamic State and six F-15C Eagles, air-to-air interceptors, were sent to Turkey's Incirlik Air Base to help bolster the country's defenses.

The decision was announced by U.S. European Command in Germany on Wednesday, one day after Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited Incirlik Air Base.

Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said the deployments of the F-15s were always intended to be short-term and their withdrawal should not be seen as a change in the U.S. commitment to Turkey or to the counter-IS campaign.

The redeployment of the fighter jets comes less than a month after NATO ally Turkey shot down a Russian warplane that it said had violated its airspace, heightening tensions between Moscow and Ankara.

The F-15C Eagles were used to help boost Turkish defenses and conduct training runs with Turkish fighter planes.

The U.S. still has 12 A-10 close-air support aircraft based at Incirlik, as well as drone aircraft and refueling planes. A U.S. defense official said the Pentagon intends to replace six of the departing F-15s with a like number of additional A-10s.

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