By Kasim Ileri
Turkey’s retired Chief of General Staff Ilker Basbug said Wednesday that
Speaking at a panel organized by the Turkish Heritage Organization in Washington, Basbug said the two key issues that strained Turkish-American relations are the extradition of Gulen who is accused of leading the July 15 coup attempt and U.S. support for PKK affiliates in Syria.
According to Basbug, who led the Turkish military from 2008 - 2010, the U.S. should understand and help address the national security concerns of its decades-long partner.
The coup was nothing but an attempt by Gulen’s followers who infiltrated the Turkish military, he said.
“There should be no hesitation that they got the order for the attempt directly from Gulen. No one should hesitate about that,” he said.
Taking on U.S. government’s excuses about the lack of evidence about Gulen’s role in the coup attempt, Basbug said some top coup plotters have confessed they had links to the U.S.-based terror leader.
One such leader was Adil Oksuz, who was filmed in the coup headquarters near Ankara on the night of July 15, he said.
Oksuz claimed to have traveled to the U.S. to visit Gulen just days before the coup attempt.
Asked whether U.S. intelligence was aware of the attempt, Basbug said it is not likely the Americans were caught unawares. “It’s not rational to believe that that they were not aware of it,” he said.
“Having intelligence about something does not mean that an intelligence agency is behind it,” he added.
Basbug also touched on the tension between Ankara and Washington regarding Syria.
“[The] United States’ cooperation with PYD in Syria is a short-term tactical situation and this will definitely not help the long-term American strategic goals,” he said.
The Turkish public is not comfortable with the U.S. support for PKK affiliates in Syria such as the PYD and its military wing, the YPG, according to Basbug who said the U.S. is sacrificing its partnership with Turkey for a short-term tactical strategy.
“Cooperating with PYD will not only damage
Turkey has asked the U.S. to remove its support for PKK’s affiliates in Syria. But Washington has used its anti-Daesh war a reason for its support of the PYD and YPG.
The retired general also suggested Turkey should not build up its long-term Syrian policy on moderate Syrian opposition groups such as the Free Syrian Army but said Ankara was left with no option but to use the Syrian opposition to maintain its national security.
“Turkey brought different proposals to the United States many times, such as executing a no-fly zone and establishing safe zones,” he said adding, that Ankara even proposed joint operations in Syria.
Criticizing the Barack Obama administration for inaction in the face of the Syrian crisis, Basbug said he is hopeful the incoming Donald Trump administration would do something about the crisis.
He also said that as Turkey, the U.S.,