Top Turkish, American soldiers to meet in person after coup attempt
AFP photoThe top Turkish and American soldiers are set for their first face-to-face meeting since the July 15 failed coup attempt amid tension between the two NATO allies over the latter’s suspected role in the coup attempt.
U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph F. Dunford and Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar will meet on Aug. 1 at the Turkish military headquarters in Ankara after the U.S. commander’s visit to İncirlik Air Base in the southern province of Adana on late July 31. Dunford was expected to meet U.S. troops stationed at the base fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Akar and Dunford have held two phone conversation since the coup attempt to set things right, particularly at İncirlik, which was closed for a couple of days after the attempt, as well regarding U.S. flights over Syria.
Dunford’s visit comes only two weeks after Turkey narrowly escaped a coup organized by high-ranking Gülenist military officers and days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan slammed a ranking U.S. military authority over remarks expressing concern about the ongoing fight against ISIL after massive purges in the Turkish army.
Joseph Votel, head of the U.S. Central Command, which leads the ISIL fight, said in a conference in Aspen on July 28: “We’ve certainly had relationships with a lot of Turkish leaders and military leaders in particular, so I’m concerned about what the impact is on those relationships. Some of them are in jail now.”
“The U.S. general [Votel] stands on the coup plotters’ side with his words. He disclosed himself via his statements,” Erdoğan said on July 29, after a series of strong statements issued by members of the Turkish government against Votel. Immediately after Erdoğan’s words, Votel rejected the claims, saying, “Any reporting that I had anything to do with the recent unsuccessful coup attempt in Turkey is unfortunate and completely inaccurate.”
Dunford’s visit will play an important role in putting military-to-military ties back on track after two weeks of turbulence, as some Turkish officials and pro-government newspapers have continued to accuse the U.S. of orchestrating the coup attempt through a Gülenist faction in the army, while U.S. officials have categorically denied these claims.
The two generals were expected to discuss ways to conduct damage control in the ties between the two militaries and particularly to ensure the continuation of effective joint action against ISIL, while also reviewing the current state of developments in Syria and Iraq.