Tolga Tanış - Hürriyet / Washington, June 29 () - Turkey and the U.S. are good allies but they differ on particular issues, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has told Hürriyet, while commenting on regional issues.
“The U.S. has differences with Turkey in certain areas. But it is important that relationships between the U.S. and Turkey continue to strengthen” he said.
The military base in the southern Turkish province of İncirlik is a critical one for NATO, he said.
“So we have some differences and continue to have some differences. But Turkey is a friend, an ally. We need to make sure that we do everything we can for Turkey to continue to be so. Leaders come and go. We have differences on where we are” he added.
Turkey has been an “indispensable NATO ally” since the 1950’s, the former politician noted.
“And Turkey’s involvement with the West, particularly NATO, is critical. Where Turkey resides, geography, history, religious dimensions of Turkey are also particularly important. [They] always have been, but especially today. Turkey’s been through a transition” he said.
‘No need for 100,000 more US troops’
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and himself were the first two politicians who met with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, he recalled. “Biden and I were in the Middle East for a ten day trip, Israel, Syria etc... And when we were in Turkey we spent three hours with Erdoğan” he said.
He retreated on his former remarks, saying the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) represents a group “we have never seen before” and needs to be defined.
“We can’t do it ourselves. There is no need for 100,000 more American troops. Those days are over” he said.
“Train, equip, support until the local leaders, local people really come together [and have] some recognition and understanding on what they have to do” he said.
ISIL’not in interest’ of any state
An optimistic point is ISIL is not in the interest of any nation or state, Hagel underlined.
“Iranians are against ISIS. [Syrian leader Bashar] al-Assad, most of the Syrians, most of Iraqis, Kurds, Turks, Gulf states, they are all against ISIS. So are we, so [is] the West” he said, using another acronym for the jihadist group.
“This problem is real, and we’re gonna have to deal with it. And it is gonna be long. A part of the next president of the U.S.’ agenda will be this, as it will be for the Russians. And China will have ongoing challenges” he said.
The Foreign Policy Association Medal recognizes individuals who demonstrate responsible internationalism and work to expand public knowledge of international affairs. Past recipients include then Secretaries of Defense William Cohen and William Perry, Secretary of State Colin Powell, President Bill Clinton and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.