Turkey is a close ally to the United States and an important partner in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today, as he expressed concern following the July 15 coup attempt there.
“I certainly didn’t see any indication that the coup was going to take place,” Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford told reporters today on his plane after concluding a three-day visit to Afghanistan. “It was surprising to me that it occurred, but gratifying to me that the army didn’t respond and they continue to respect civilian leadership.”
Incirlik Airspace Reopened
The airspace over Incirlik Air Base in southwestern Turkey was closed in the wake of the coup attempt. U.S. and coalition aircraft fly missions against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant from the base.
“We resumed flight operations today, and airspace is opened back up — business as usual,” Dunford said, adding there are no plans to change the U.S. force posture in Turkey.
“Our relationship with Turkey as a NATO ally is broad — politically, economically and from a security perspective,” he said. “Obviously today, in terms of urgency, the thing we’re most concerned about is the counter-ISIL fight and our partnership in the counter-ISIL fight.”
In addition to permitting basing of U.S. assets, Turkey has cooperated in the development of effective ground forces, particularly in Syria, the chairman said.
The border area between Turkey and Syria is critical, as foreign fighters and money flows across the border, the general noted. “The Turkish-Syrian border is important to isolate the battlefield in Syria,” he said, “and so we’re watching that pretty closely, too.”
Although he said he was concerned, Dunford expressed relief that Turkey “bounced back pretty quickly” in the first 24 hours in terms of facilitating operations in Syria. “So we’re glad about that,” he added.
(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter @FerdinandoDoD)