Gen. Votel: Turkey unrest could affect Islamic State fight

Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, attends a briefing near Amman, Jordan on May 22, 2016.


By TARA COPP | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 28, 2016

WASHINGTON — The recent failed coup and jailing of military leaders in Turkey could impact U.S. operations there against the Islamic State group, Gen. Joseph Votel said Thursday at a security conference in Colorado.

Votel, who leads U.S. Central Command, said the coup attempt in Turkey two weeks ago left him “concerned” about how U.S. operations and personnel at Incirlik Air Base will be affected.

The U.S.-led coalition uses Incirlik to launch airstrikes, surveillance aircraft and other missions into Syria and Iraq.

Stories on Turkey's attempted military coup and its aftermath

“Turkey of course …sits on an extraordinarily important seam between the central region and Europe,” Votel said at the Aspen Security Forum. “It will have an impact on the operations we do along that very important seam. Obviously, we are very dependent on Turkey for basing of our resources…I am concerned it will impact the level of cooperation and collaboration that we have with Turkey.”

Following the coup attempt, Turkey President Recep Tayyip Ergodan imposed a three-month state of emergency in the country.

He also jailed more than 13,000 scholars, lawyers and military officers who he suspected of having a role in the July 15 coup.

Yeni Safak, a daily paper known for its loyal support of Erdogan, even reported retired Army Gen. John F. Campbell, former commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, was the mastermind behind the attempted overthrow. However, the paper also reported White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest called the allegations against the general unsubstantiated.

Votel said Thursday that the United States was “continuing to work through some of the friction that continues to exist” following the failed coup. He did not elaborate.

But the general did say some of the arrested Turkish officers worked with U.S. personnel to coordinate airstrikes against the Islamic State group.

“Yes, I think some of them are in jail,” Votel said of certain key Turkish military liaisons.

As a result of the coup attempt, U.S. air operations were temporarily suspended and the Turkish government cut power to Incirlik.

U.S. forces operated on generators for several days, though Votel said power has been restored and operations are back to normal.p

The Associated Press contributed to this story.