ANKARA, Turkey, Sept. 4, 2010 — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today praised Turkey for its leadership in the region and for its assistance with efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, and expressed the hope for an even stronger U.S.-Turkish military relationship in the years ahead.
During a news conference here, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen noted that he last visited Turkey two years ago.
“Certainly much has changed since then,” he said, “not least of which has been the end of the American combat mission in Iraq and the surge of United States forces into Afghanistan – two missions for which and in which Turkey’s assistance has been vital. And so, I felt it was important to return.”
Another reason for his visit, the chairman said, was to meet with Gen. Isik Kosaner, Turkey’s new chief of the General Staff, “to congratulate him personally on the assumption of his new duties and reaffirm the commitment of the United States military to continuing – indeed, to strengthening – our already close working relationship.
“I wanted also to thank him for Turkey’s leadership in the region,” Mullen continued, “and for the exemplary way in which this military has contributed to security and stability across a range of NATO missions, from Kosovo to Bosnia and Herzegovina, all the way to Afghanistan.”
The admiral said he arrived here yesterday directly from a visit to Afghanistan, and that few things were more evident and more appreciated by commanders there than Turkish contributions in command of allied troops around the Afghan capital of Kabul and in training Afghan security forces, and in leading two provincial reconstruction teams.
“In other words, I flew here to make sure that he knew that I knew how much his forces are doing,” Mullen said, “and that I deeply appreciate the service they are rendering and the sacrifices they are making.”
The chairman said he didn’t come here to press Turkey to do more in Afghanistan, but he added that any additional contributions Turkish officials feel comfortable in providing would be welcome at a NATO force-generation conference later this month.
Mullen noted “with gratitude” that although Turkey did not support the United Nations effort to impose sanctions in Iran for its nuclear program, the Turkish government will enforce the sanctions that were passed.
The chairman flatly dismissed speculation that he’d come here to negotiate an agreement to transport weapons and heavy equipment coming out of Iraq through Turkish territory.
“Though we certainly rely on Turkey’s infrastructure to move some of our equipment in and out of our areas of operations,” he said, “we do not transport weapons through Turkey, nor do we intend to in the future.
“Reports or suggestions to the contrary are simply false and completely without merit,” he added.
Turkey and the United States not only are allies, Mullen said, they are also friends, and both countries have suffered at the hands of terrorists. He expressed condolences to Turkey for losses inflicted by the terror group known as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and reaffirmed the U.S. military’s commitment to help Turkey fight the terrorists.
Both nations share a desire for security and stability in Afghanistan and throughout the region, the admiral noted. “It is to that end we must work harder, and to that end we must build an even stronger relationship than the one we enjoy today,” he said.
In addition to his meeting with Kosaner, Mullen’s visit to the Turkish capital also included meetings with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)