Ankara: Turkey today insisted its military will keep up the fight against Islamic State jihadists and other militants after the failed coup, saying the armed forces would emerge stronger from a purge of its top ranks.
A senior US military commander had been quoted by American media as saying that the turmoil in post-coup Turkey could affect its role in the US-led coalition fighting IS jihadists in Syria. However, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara that he found such statements “ridiculous” and “unfortunate”.
Turkish forces face the challenge of fighting both IS jihadists and guerrillas from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Cavusoglu said making the military’s capacity to fight such groups an issue in the wake of the coup “stemmed from a lack of knowledge and ignorance, if there is no ill intention”.
Turkey has embarked on a major military reshuffle after the putsch, which Ankara blames on US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen and his followers. Authorities accuse the reclusive cleric of building a “parallel structure” inside Turkey.
The government has ordered the discharge of 149 generals nearly half the armed forces’ entire contingent of 358 — for complicity in the putsch bid. Almost all of these generals are currently under arrest. But Cavusoglu denied the army was weaker as a result of the ongoing purge.
“On the contrary. When we weed them (pro-Gulenist elements) out, our army will first of all be more dynamic, cleaner and more effective.” The minister ridiculed the idea that it was only pro-Gulen elements in the military that wanted to fight IS militants.
“We don’t find such assessments right,” he said. Turkey, which has itself been hit by deadly attacks blamed on jihadists, regularly targets IS positions in Syria with artillery fire. Its Incirlik air base in the south also hosts US and other coalition warplanes launching deadly raids on jihadists in Syria.
Cavusoglu said that Turkey had “never dragged its feet” in its cooperation with the United States in fighting terror. According to US media, Central Command chief General Joseph Votel said the coup bid and subsequent round-up of generals could affect American military cooperation with Turkey.