Mullen Praises Turkey’s Leadership, Assistance

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)

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