Following an Israeli travel advisory on Monday for its own citizens to leave Turkey as soon as possible, the Pentagon is also ordering nearly 700 military families to leave Incirlik Air Base and two other military installations in Turkey beginning Wednesday, March 30, because of concerns over security.
“The decision to move our families and civilians was made in consultation with the Government of Turkey, our State Department, and our Secretary of Defense,” said Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, Commander, U.S. European Command in a statement published on the official blog of EUCOM. “We understand this is disruptive to our military families, but we must keep them safe and ensure the combat effectiveness of our forces to support our strong Ally Turkey in the fight against terrorism.”
State Dept. ‘politi-speak’
State Department Deputy John Kirby, in a transcript provided of a press briefing on Tuesday regarding the situation, spoke on the ordered pullout of DoD dependants from Turkey. A question came regarding the order: “If there was no specific threat, why do it now?”
Kirby seemed to hem and haw. “That’s a great question. So my colleague is right. The decision to do this, first of all, wasn’t taken lightly. It was done after careful thought and consideration and interagency coordination, I might add. And I think it’s very much a result of our ongoing assessment of security conditions there in Turkey and in recognition of the threat environment in Adana, specifically in southeastern Turkey from a regional perspective. So the why now is I think – when you talk about the now – rather than talk about the now in terms of today or the last few hours, try to keep in mind that this was really a decision that was several weeks in the making in terms of assessing the security situation there, which undoubtedly – and you guys have reported on the terrorism threat that has existed there, the recent attacks. Secretary Kerry alluded to some of these attacks yesterday in the camera spray with the Turkish foreign minister. So this was a decision that, again, was, I think, several weeks in the making.”
So, Kirby was asked again. “Well, right. So that – but again, why now? Because as you noted, the Secretary met with the Turkish foreign minister yesterday.” And Kirby answered that with a short “Yes, he did.”
Causing ’embarrassment’ to Turkey?
Another question then: “And President Erdogan is due here in a day or two. I mean, if this could have just as easily been done last week or next week, it certainly appears like this was timed to cause maximum embarrassment to senior leaders of your NATO ally, Turkey, who happened to be coming to town. I mean, you chose to do this smackdab in the middle of the foreign minister being here and the president arriving. Why? Why didn’t you do it – why was this chosen?”
Kirby disagreed, it seemed. “The decision to do this, the timing of it, was completely considered independently of the Nuclear Security Summit and the visit here to Washington by Turkish officials. Absolutely no connection to that whatsoever. This was done, as it should be, based on the security threat and our concern about the safety for American citizens, whether they’re government employees or not, in southeastern Turkey in particular. And again, it was not something that we took lightly. I mean, this was something that took several weeks to sort of get us to and to work hand in glove with the Defense Department, who also has equities here. So not timed at all for this week’s issues.”
Perhaps wanting to make sure he didn’t seem to be “less than truthful” with reporters, Kirby took another stab at the question. “Now, that said, I’d be less than truthful if I didn’t also say that in yesterday’s bilateral discussion with the Turkish foreign minister the Secretary did raise this so that – and to explain to the foreign minister the decision we were making, why we were making it, and how we were going to make it public. And he was very understanding and appreciative of the situational awareness.”
“Well, I’m not sure he probably was – probably not appreciative, but maybe he understood. But I – appreciating is one thing,” came the response to Kirby.
“He seemed appreciative to me,” answered Kirby. “I mean, I was there.”
‘I can’t dispute the conspiracy theorists’
“But – okay. Well, all right,” the questioning continued from the press. “But look, I mean, this is a country in which you have spent the last several weeks – even longer – batting down or trying to bat down conspiracy theories that have ranged from you guys knew about the – because you put out the embassy warning for the warning for Ankara, that you knew in advance there was going to be an attack, the attacks in the press on your ambassador there. And –“
Jumping in before that statement could finish, Kirby provided his own conclusion to the inquiry, asking “[a]nd yesterday’s accusation that we’re trying to overthrow the government?”
“Yeah, exactly,” the questioner answered.
“Yeah,” Kirby replied.
“And with all that, the brains in this building and the Pentagon decided that today, right in between – right just before a President Erdogan visit,” the inquiry continued, “is the day to do something that you could have done last week or the week before or even next week. Does that –“
Kirby jumped in again. “We – I – look, I can’t dispute the conspiracy theorists, that they might think that there was more to it than this, that this was some sort of –“
The reporter jumped in then. “I would hope you do want to dispute.”
Kirby acknowledged that with an “I am” statement and then followed up with another. “I mean, I can’t dispute that there are people that think that way.”
The questioner clarified. “Will think that. All right.”
On the actual conspiracy allegation, however, Kirby did say something. “But I certainly can dispute the actual allegation. I can tell you, having watched the process churn now over the last several weeks, that this was done with the – with deep consideration and careful thought, interagency communication. And again, this is not the kind of decision that we take lightly. We take it very seriously. And so therefore want to do it in an appropriate, measured, deliberate fashion, and also do it at what we believe is the right time. And we believe this is the right time to do this.”
US is ‘deeply troubled’
John Kirby, Deputy spokesperson for the State Department in Washington D.C., also told reporters on Tuesday that it appears serious things are happening also in Libya. “First, on Libya,” Kirby began the briefing. “The United States is deeply troubled by reports that a small group of political obstructionists have closed the airspace around Tripoli in a deliberate attempt to prevent the Libyan Government of National Accord from arriving in Tripoli.”
The obstruction was labeled “reprehensible” by Kirby. His full comments: “We find reprehensible efforts by these individuals to undermine the political process, to derail the establishment of the Government of National Accord, and to slow, if not halt, the implementation of the Libyan political agreement signed in Skhirat. Consistent with the recommendation of the Libyan Political Dialogue, we support the Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord and their move to Tripoli and we call upon all Libyan public institutions to facilitate a peaceful handover of power so that Libya’s new leaders can begin the hard work of restoring stability to their country.”
Although Benghazi was not mentioned, Kirby did rail against “ham-fisted” obstructionism. “The people of Libya deserve better than this sort of ham-fisted obstructionism. They deserve a strong a united government and a chance to see that government succeed for them and for the region. The United States will continue to consult with the United Nations and with Special Representative Kobler over the issue of supporting the Presidency Council’s move to Tripoli.”