Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
has slammed comments by the head of U.S. national intelligence for suggesting that crackdowns in the Turkish military after the failed July 15 coup had harmed the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), saying the statements showed that he was “on the side of the plotters.”
“The U.S. general [Joseph Votel] stands on the coup plotters’ side with his words. He disclosed himself via his statements,” Erdoğan said during a visit to the Gölbaşı Special Operations Department in Ankara, where bombing by coup plotting soldiers killed scores of police officers.
“Is it up to you to decide on this? Who are you? Instead of thanking the state for repelling the coup attempt, you stand with the coup plotters. The coup plotter is in your country. You are nurturing him there; it’s out in the open,” he said, referring to the U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania and who is believed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to have masterminded the failed coup attempt.
“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,” Votel said at the Aspen Security Forum, a think tank in Colorado.
Saying the world was just “watching the people in the streets out for democracy,” Erdoğan criticized the countries that previously voiced concerns on “the future of Turkey.”
“What are their concerns? They are concerned about the suspensions, detentions, arrests and the like and the increase in them. Are they going to increase? If the people are guilty, it will,” he also said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also criticized Votel’s remarks, describing them as “unfortunate.”
“Restricting the military capacity of Turkey in terms of the fight against ISIL, the PKK
[the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] and other groups this much stems from a lack of knowledge and ignorance – if not malicious intentions,” Çavuşoğlu said, adding that the army would be more effective and trustworthy when it is “cleansed from what is rotten.”
“If the U.S. generals say that only the members of the parallel structure are struggling against ISIL, we would strongly reject it,” he said, referring to the members of the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).
Votel had expressed U.S. worries about the fact that some of the generals that Washington used to work with in Turkey were now 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.