Turkey’s critical anti-terror role

September 13, 2016

Distractions should not diminish working with a prickly ally

As the global fight against terrorism continues, Turkey has become America’s most critical geopolitical ally in the fight against the Islamic State and other dangerous terrorist organizations.

Recent meetings between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Obama as well as Vice President Joe Biden have shown the world that despite the many “distractions” for both countries, Turkey and America must work together to lower the temperature on either side. Only then can the bond between Turkey and America strengthen.

As Mr. Biden said, “America must always protect its relationship with the Turkish people.” At present, truer words have never been spoken.

As the future of the Middle East evolves daily, Turkish-U.S. relations are critical to regional security and the management of regional crises. And despite the need to deal with major developments within its own borders, Turkey finds itself stuck in the crosshairs of external turmoil. The conflicts in Syria and Iraq, as well as Russia’s recent actions in the region, have become pressing issues of international security.

America’s relationship with Turkey is entirely unique.

The only majority-Muslim member of NATO, Turkey has lent its soil to U.S. air bases and supported American military operations in key conflicts, such as Syria today and the Balkans in the 1990s. Turkey’s stability in the face of adversity and the friendliness of its military toward the West are also of vital importance to the United States and to countries throughout Europe.

Turkey has been a NATO ally since 1952, and U.S. warplanes have used Incirlik Air Base in the south during the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. An estimated 1,800 U.S. military personnel are assigned to the base and the U.S. Embassy in Ankara.

Since 2011, Turkey and the United States have co-chaired the Global Counterterrorism Forum to help combat the rise of extremism. Turkey has also worked in conjunction with the United States to establish the first-ever public-private global fund to support local efforts to counter violent extremism. The country has been a leading example in its role at the Center of Excellence Defense Against Terrorism in Ankara to teach fellow NATO allies and select non-member states on how to address various terrorism-related issues.

For more than 50 years, Turkey and the United States have enjoyed a bilateral relationship sharing values of democracy, diversity, tolerance, social mobility, and the separation of religious and civic life.

As terrorism around the world continues to cause ruin and destruction, and as the Islamic State continues to play a deadly role around the world, the relationship with our ally been never been as pivotal as it is today.

It is time that both nations come closer together to resolve their differences, strengthen their bonds, and find a way to work together to deal with the issues that are in the international spotlight; most prominently, U.S.-based cleric, Fethullah Gulen, and the Kurds.

As Mr. Biden said, it is time that America’s actions match its words.

• Ali Cinar is executive vice president of the Turkish Heritage Organization.