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Pentagon Refutes 2nd ‘Absurd’ Claim of Turkey Coup Involvement


FILE - Policemen stand atop military armored vehicles after troops involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey, July 16, 2016.

FILE - Policemen stand atop military armored vehicles after troops involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey, July 16, 2016.

The Pentagon is vehemently rejecting remarks by the Turkish president that the U.S. military was siding with plotters of the failed military coup in Turkey.

"Any suggestion anyone in the department supported the coup in any way would be absurd," Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook told reporters Friday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized U.S. General Joseph Votel after the general voiced concerns about "the longer-term impact" of the coup on U.S. relations with the Turkish military.

"Who are you? Know your place! You are taking the side of coup plotters instead of thanking this state for defeating the coup attempt," Erdogan said.

Votel leads U.S. Central Command, which overseas U.S. military operations in the Middle East. The general issued a statement Friday refuting "any report" that he had anything to do with the coup attempt in Turkey as "unfortunate and completely inaccurate."

"Turkey has been an extraordinary and vital partner in the region for many years," Votel said. "We appreciate Turkey's continuing cooperation and look forward to our future partnership in the counter-ISIL fight." ISIL is an acronym for Islamic State.

FILE - Turkish citizens wave their national flags as they protest against the military coup outside Turkey's parliament near the Turkish military headquarters in Ankara, Turkey, July 16, 2016.

FILE - Turkish citizens wave their national flags as they protest against the military coup outside Turkey's parliament near the Turkish military headquarters in Ankara, Turkey, July 16, 2016.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who spoke with his Turkish counterpart by phone last week, said Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik confirmed that his country's commitments to combating Islamic State would "proceed unabated."

Turkey, which borders Syria and Iraq, is an important ally in the fight against the Islamic State group. The NATO ally's Incirlik Air Base houses U.S. refueling and attack aircraft used in the counter-IS campaign. More than 3,000 U.S. personnel are based in the country, as well.

Multiple accusations

The back-and-forth between the U.S. and Turkey comes just days after the top U.S. military general denounced a report by a Turkish daily alleging that former General John Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year, had organized the failed military coup in Turkey.

"That's an absurd report that General Campbell would be involved in something like that," General Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Monday at the Pentagon in response to the article by conservative Turkish daily Yeni Safak.

The U.S. Army and Campbell also categorically denied what the Army called "irresponsible assertions" in the Turkish press.

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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.

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