US general ‘concerned over impact of arrested generals in Turkey’
AFP photoSome Turkish officers with whom the United States used to have a relationship have been imprisoned for their alleged role in the July 15 coup attempt, the head of the U.S. Central Command said July 28, as the U.S. director of national intelligence said the crackdown on the military is hindering cooperation in the U.S.-led fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“We have certainly had relationships with a lot of Turkish leaders – military leaders in particular. I am concerned about what the impact is on those relationships as we continue,” Gen. Joseph Votel said at the Aspen Security Forum, a think tank in Colorado.
Responding to a question about whether some of those leaders were now in jail, he said, “Yes, I think some of them are in jail.”
The general leading the Pentagon’s operations in the Middle East said Turkey was beyond being just a place for the U.S. to “park our assets and launch them.”
“They have been integrated into many things that we are doing,” he said, noting Turkey’s contribution to the anti-ISIL fight and significant intelligence sharing between the two countries with respect to terrorism.
He expressed his concerns that in the long run, the coup and Ankara’s efforts to cleanse the military of coup supporters would have an effect on U.S. operations in the region.
“I am concerned that it will impact the level of cooperation and collaboration that we have with Turkey which has been excellent, frankly,” Votel said.
Noting some limitations on U.S. operations at the İncirlik Air Base in southern Turkey, Votel said the electricity problem at the base had been resolved.
After it was discovered that Turkish forces at İncirlik were involved in the coup, authorities cut electricity to the base. The U.S. launched aircraft from the base using an internal power system until commercial electricity was restored earlier this week.
Nearly 1,700 military personnel received dishonorable discharges over their suspected role in the failed takeover, including around 40 percent of Turkey’s admirals and generals.
Around a third of Turkey’s roughly 360 generals were detained, and more than 100 of them have already been charged pending trial.
“It’s having an effect, because it’s affected all segments of the national security apparatus in Turkey,” said James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, on July 28 when asked about the impact of events in Turkey on the fight against ISIL.
“Many of our interlocutors have been purged or arrested,” he added. “There’s no question this is going to set back and make more difficult cooperation with the Turks.”
Turkey is also host to a CIA base from which the agency has been supporting ostensibly moderate Syrian rebel forces, U.S. listening posts, and an early warning radar for NATO’s European missile defense system.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accused U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen of masterminding the coup attempt, and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on July 25 that ties with the U.S. would be affected if Washington does not extradite him.
Erdoğan wants the armed forces and national intelligence agency brought under the control of the presidency, a parliamentary official said July 28.
Turkish broadcaster CNN Türk has reported that more than 15,000 people, including around 10,000 soldiers, have been detained so far over the failed takeover. Of those, more than 8,000 were formally arrested pending trial, it said.