LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
An attempted military coup appears to have failed in Turkey. It was a dramatic night, beginning when elements of the military announced they had taken over. Forces loyal to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared to have regained control of the country after some intense fighting. Erdogan appeared in Istanbul last night, and as all that was taking place, U.S. officials were keeping a close eye and briefing President Obama. We're joined now by NPR's Deborah Amos to talk about why what happens in Turkey matters so much to the U.S.. Deb, good morning.
DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: Good morning.
WERTHEIMER: So many Americans watched the dramatic scenes and the U.S. came out against the coup. What is this country looking for?
AMOS: I think that Washington wants to see a quick return to stability because Turkey is a key NATO ally, a key U.S. ally. It's been a complex relationship, and you can see that at times it's been frustrating for President Obama because Erdogan's rule has become more autocratic. But simply by geography, Turkey plays a role in conflicts that the U.S. cares deeply about - Iraq, Iran, Syria - and also a role in the fight against the militants of the Islamic State. And there are 2 million Syrian refugees that are in Turkey.
WERTHEIMER: There's another important point here. Two thousand U.S. troops are stationed in Turkey, including troops at the Incirlik Air Base. Did the coup attempt disrupt that at all do you think?
AMOS: No. The Pentagon was monitoring it closely. You know, one-third of all of the refueling for those bombing runs against the militants, those are done at Incirlik. The Pentagon just had to evacuate some 700 family members and 250 pets. And it was because of the stepped-up ISIS terror attacks across Turkey. You know, if that coup had succeeded, they would have had to pull out everyone, the pilots and an A-10 squadron that's based at Incirlik. And that's based on U.S. law. So this coup was very bad news. It would have been a disaster for the anti-ISIS coalition.
WERTHEIMER: Now, of course, that means that it's also on the border for refugees, right?
AMOS: There's 2 million. Turkey has an agreement with the Europeans. They're supposed to control that flow. So that's why Turkish stability is so crucial in Europe and in Washington. And, you know, we've seen that chaos is a gift to ISIS. So that was on everybody's mind in Washington when they watched this attempt unfold.
WERTHEIMER: Erdogan's an elected president, but the United States has been concerned about him for some time. He has arrested journalists. He's jailed his opponents. He seems to be heading in the direction of an autocratic rule. Will the U.S. have any influence in trying to prevent him from doing that now?
AMOS: You know, the U.S. has pressured Erdogan, but he is such a key player for so many things that it appears they don't pressure too hard. You know, for Turks, this is the fifth coup attempt and all of those in living memory for Turks - I talked to a member of the country's ruling party today. I caught her in busy traffic in Istanbul, which tells you things are coming to normal. And she said a key general said this is the last coup for Turkey. And she certainly hoped that was true.
WERTHEIMER: NPR's Deb Amos, thank you very much.
AMOS: Thank you.
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