WASHINGTON -- Turkey has agreed to let the United States launch airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from the strategic Incirlik Air Base, a senior Obama administration official has told CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan.
For months, Washington has sought permission for the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS to use Incirlik as a launching pad. Turkey had been resistant to the idea amid domestic opposition. But in recent days, Turkey has been hit by a surge of violence blamed on ISIS-linked militants.
"Access to Turkish bases such as Incirlik Air Base will increase the coalition's operational efficiency for counter-ISIL efforts," the administration official said, using an alternate acronym for ISIS. "As Allies, we take threats to Turkey's border very seriously. Our cooperation will provide the coalition operational flexibility to respond to these threats, especially those emanating from Syria."
CBS News correspondent Holly Williams said use of the air base will make it much easier for the U.S.-led coalition to launch strikes against ISIS, given its position just 60 miles from the Syrian border.
As Williams reports, the Turks' turnaround comes in a week in which the Syrian civil war has spilled violently into Turkey. A suicide bomber reportedly linked to ISIS killed more than 30 people in a Turkish town close to the border on Monday.
On Thursday, the Turkish military said five ISIS gunmen fired at a Turkish border post, killing a soldier. Overnight, three Turkish fighter jets bombed ISIS positions inside Syria.
President Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly discussed the plan to open up Incirlik to U.S. and coalition use in a phone call Wednesday.
The White House declined to confirm the Incirlik agreement, but said Mr. Obama and Erdogan discussed deepening cooperation in the fight against ISIS.
Erdogan has long demanded that the U.S. create and help monitor a "safe zone," or some version of a no-fly zone, in northern Syria in exchange for use of Turkey's airbases, explains Brennan. U.S. officials said they were still discussing that concept with Turkey, but that it was not part of this current deal.
"The creation and enforcement of no-fly zones and other military-enforced zones present significant challenges, including military, humanitarian, and financial challenges, which we must consider in the context of our broader Syria policy," the official said. "We continue our dialogue with Turkey to evaluate options on the most effective means of countering ISIL on its borders to promote Turkey's security and regional stability."