Turkey Coup Attempt to Take Over Agenda at Global Defense Summit

Turkish soldiers are seen on the Asian side of Istanbul, Friday, July 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Turkish soldiers are seen on the Asian side of Istanbul, Friday, July 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

The attempted military coup in Turkey and the horrific truck attack in Nice pushed to the top of the agenda for meetings later this week of defense ministers worldwide convened by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to speed up the campaign against ISIS.

On ABC-TV's "This Week" program Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry said the meetings at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland beginning Wednesday will "lay down plans to shut these guys (ISIS) down forever."

Carter has already said that he plans to use the two-day forum to meet separately with French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to coordinate on a French military "response" to the July 14 attack with a 19-ton refrigerator truck on revelers in Nice that killed at least 84.

The apparent collapse of the coup by elements of the military against the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also raised concerns about the stability of a NATO ally that has authorized U.S. airstrikes against ISIS from the Incirlik Air Base and taken in more than two million Syrian refugees.

Erdogan quickly blamed an exiled 74-year-old Muslim cleric and former ally who has been living in Pennsylvania for 15 years -- Fethullah Gulen -- for fomenting the attempted coup and demanded his extradition, which could prove to be a lingering sore point for the Turkey-U.S. relationship.

Outside Gulen's Pennsylvania residence on Saturday, about 100 Turkish protesters demanded Gulen's extradition and chanted "Obama, make him go." Gulen has denied any involvement in the attempted coup and said he supported democracy. "In brief, I don't even know who my followers are," Gulen said.

Hasan Goclu, a protest organizer from Delaware, told Turkey's Andalou news agency of the extradition demand that "There needs to come about an agreement between the U.S. government and the Turkish government on this. It is simply not enough to say we are allies and not act upon it."

Kerry said on "This week" that the U.S. the U.S. would consider Turkey's demands, once they are formally submitted, but added that the U.S. would strictly adhere to the law.

"We're not holding back from doing anything, nor have we ever been," Kerry said. "We've always said, look, if you have evidence of X, Y or Z, please present it to us. Turkey is a friend. Turkey is an ally," but the U.S. has "very strict standards in order to protect people's rights."

The U.S. was also wary of Turkey's recent attempts to repair relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Turkey recently apologized for shooting down a Russian warplane last November near the Turkey-Syria border and Andalou, citing sources, said Sunday that Erdogan would meet with Putin in Moscow in the first week of August.

Following the attempted coup Friday, Turkey shut down flight operations at Incirlik, which is shared by the U.S. 39th Air Base Wing and the Turkish Air Force, but the flights by U.S. F-16s, A-10 ground attack aircraft and refuelers against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria resumed Sunday, the Pentagon said in a statement. Commercial power to Incirlik also was cut off but the base was operating on internal power, the Pentagon said.

More than 6,000 members of the Turkish military and the judiciary have been arrested on suspicion of being part of the coup, the government said, and among them was Gen. Bekir Ercan Van, commander of the Incirlik air base, 10 other Turkish soldiers at the base, and a police officer, according to Turkish media.

The meetings at Andrews which Carter is calling the "Counter-ISIL Defense Ministerial," using another acronym for ISIS, will include NATO allies plus 34 partner nations in the anti-ISIS coalition who have either contributed forces or basing to the effort to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

The U.S. has maintained that inflicting a "lasting" military defeat on ISIS was the best way to reduce the global terror threat posed by the group, although CIA Director John Brennan and FBI Director James Comey have warned that the ISIS terror threat will continue long after the so-called "caliphate" in Iraq and Syria is gone.

In a statement, the Pentagon said that the meetings at Andrews "will discuss progress to date, the essential next steps in the campaign and how the nations of the coalition can accelerate the drive to deal ISIL a lasting defeat."

--Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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