Top US military officer in Turkey to smooth over tensions

Top US military officer in Turkey to smooth over tensions
© Francis Rivera

The nation's top military officer, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., arrived in Turkey on Monday to meet with Turkish leaders and tamp down suspicions that the U.S. military backed the recent failed coup attempt. 

"He will deliver messages condemning in the strongest terms the recent coup attempt," said Navy Capt. Greg Hicks, spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

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Dunford will speak to U.S. troops stationed at Incirlik Air Base, a joint U.S.-Turkish air base that has been a point of concern for the U.S. 

After the coup attempt, the Turkish government temporarily grounded aircraft at the base, including U.S. planes flying strike missions against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 

It also cut commercial power to the air base since its Turkish commander was implicated in the failed uprising, which was conducted by a faction within the Turkish military. Power was finally restored after days of lobbying by the U.S. government.  

Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at U.S. Central Command Commander Army Gen. Joseph Votel, after Votel said he worried about the impact the coup attempt would have, since some military officers the U.S. military used to work with are now jailed. 

There have also been Turkish suspicions that retired Army Gen. John Campbell helped to orchestrate the coup, which Dunford swiftly batted down. 

Dunford will meet with Turkey Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and General Hulusi Akar, chief of the Turkish General Staff. 

He will also deliver messages "reaffirming the importance of our enduring partnership for regional security as symbolized by coalition operations out of Incirlik in the counter-ISIL fight, and the importance of Turkey's contributions to both the counter-ISIL coalition and NATO alliances," Hicks said, using another acronym for ISIS. 

Dunford may also address a news report from this past weekend that the coup leaders had tried to reach out to him as the coup was unfolding. 

BuzzFeed reported that the coup leaders had called Dunford, who was in Afghanistan at the time, and that his staff decided not to wake him up. 

However, a defense official told The Hill on background that a call came in from Akar's office to the Joint Staff's office in D.C., but it did not ask for Dunford. 

When Dunford's staff in Afghanistan was informed that a call had come in, Dunford was awake and monitoring the events of the coup via email and TV reporting, the official said.