WASHINGTON, D.C. – The White House finalized a historic agreement with the Turkish government today after officials met in Washington to sign a sixty-year open-ended lease on just over one thousand acres of land in Milam County, Texas, where the Turkish government plans to erect an air force base.
The agreement, facilitated by Secretary of State John Kerry, effectively marks the first time in American history that a foreign military will be allowed to maintain a permanent base on U.S. soil. “This is a proud moment for the Turkish people,” said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking to reporters from the steps of the Harry S. Truman Building in downtown D.C. moments before he signed the binding document.
The pact also comes as a major economic victory for Milam County. With a population just shy of twenty-five thousand, Milam County and the surrounding area expect to see a huge boom in commerce with the arrival of nearly fourteen thousand Turkish soldiers and servicemen who will live and work on the base.
“We’ve always had a steady stream of business from Fort Hood,” Cameron City Mayor Connie Anderle told CBS Austin. “Folks in Cameron have always embraced the military culture,” Mayor Anderle said while adding that Cameron City council members are planning a block party to officially welcome the Turkish Air Force’s Strategic Atlantic Command to its new home in eastern Texas.
A source with intimate knowledge of the negotiation process told The El Paso Times that American and Turkish officials had their sights set on at least three different locations in Texas and Louisiana before deciding on Milam County. “In the end it was the Brazos River that sealed the deal,” the official said, noting that the river empties out into the Gulf of Mexico.
Construction of the state-of-the-art strategic air base is scheduled to begin in early March and is expected to cost somewhere in the ballpark of $385 billion. Turkey currently maintains just over half a dozen military bases throughout the Middle East and Africa. In contrast, the United States has as many as 662 military bases in 38 foreign countries.