The Turkish government’s allegation that the United States was involved in a failed coup in 2016 has been further undermined with the exposure of a Turkish military document which revealed that the US Air Force had decided to temporarily scale back operations in Turkey.
According to the document, the US Air Force had already decided to reduce tanker flights operating out of Turkey’s Incirlik Airbase in southeastern Adana province before a limited mobilization by the Turkish army took place on the night of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt. The decision was conveyed to Turkish Brig. Gen. Irfan Özsert by US Army Brig. Gen. Edwin J. Deedrick, who was serving as the assistant commanding general of the Joint Special Operations Command at the time.
The military experts Nordic Monitor spoke to argued that it made no sense for the US to reduce its air cover if it was somehow involved in the putschist attempt in Turkey as the government claimed to be the case. The allegations that the US was involved in the attempt were made publicly by Turkish government officials at various times. Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu accused the US of orchestrating the coup in a phone interview with CNN Türk on July 16 while events were still unfolding.
He repeated the same allegation on various occasions, saying that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s vocal critic, Fethullah Gülen, lacked the capability of mounting such an attempt. The government accuses the Gülen of being behind the failed coup although no evidence has been presented to prove the claim. Gülen himself denied playing any role and asked for an international inquiry to ascertain the real perpetrator, a proposal that Erdoğan declined.
Interestingly, the meeting between Özsert and Deedrick took place on July 15, 2016 during which the US general informed his Turkish counterpart that Maj. Gen. James E. Kraft Jr., the commander of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force (CJSOTF), was on temporary leave and would return to his post in early August after visiting Kuwait and then the US on a leave of absence. Maj. Gen.Kraft who departed for Kuwait on July 15, left him as acting commander during his absence, Deedrick added.
According to a memo that provided a readout of the meeting, Deedrick told the Turkish general that the US Defense Department had made a decision to shift some of the tanker planes deployed at Incirlik Airbase to the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) because of a growing need for these capabilities in the region. As a result some of the close air support capabilities in the Iraqi and Syrian theatres would be reduced nearly by 27 percent on a temporary basis, Deedrick explained.
The memo shoots holes in the Turkish government narrative and appears to be yet another piece of evidence that the US actually had nothing to do with the coup attempt. It also undermines the government argument that Incirlik Airbase, which the government propagandists claimed played a crucial role in the events of July 15, was not really relevant in the limited mobilization. Nevertheless, that did not prevent Turkish prosecutors from launching criminal investigations connected to the base, In fact, they decided to investigate not only Turkish officers but also a number of US service people who were deployed at the base.
One would have expected the US to beef up its logistical capabilities in Turkey in preparation for the coup if it had really been involved as the government claimed, according to one expert Nordic Monitor spoke to on condition of anonymity. The opposite took place, and the US decided to reduce its footprint by deploying some of its tanker planes to the Africa command, according to this document, the expert said.
During the meeting with Özsert, the US general further noted that he would be going to Ankara on July 17 to meet with the US ambassador as well as representatives of the Office of Defense Cooperation Turkey (ODC-T), which is a US Security Assistance Organization (SAO) to Turkey. He said he would have a better grasp of the developments and would pay another visit to Özsert upon his return. Nordic Monitor previously published confidential documents showing how US servicemen and US defense contractors were the subject of coup investigations in Ankara due to regular meetings and contacts with their Turkish counterparts. Meetings that were scheduled long before as part of multi-year service contracts for Turkish military procurement needs were also treated as suspicions activities by Turkish prosecutors.
The role Gen. Özsert played at Incirlik Airbase during the July 15 events was also questioned by experts. According to the secret document, he was acting as the Turkish military representative (Türk Askeri Temsil Heyeti Başkani) when he met with the US general. While he was accusing his colleagues, including the commander of Incirlik Airbase, Bekir Ercan Van, of involvement in the coup, he claimed he was on temporary duty at Incirlik but did not explain what that temporary assignment was.
It was also quite odd that while the Turkish command at Incirlik was on a terrorism alert and troops were deployed to counter a possible attack, Özsert kept his distance for reasons that were not explained. Instead he talked to an unidentified person in Ankara and received a different set of instructions, while his colleagues were ordered within the chain of command to report to their positions.
In his statement Özsert said he contacted Gen. Zekai Aksakallı, commander of the Special Forces who played in a key role in orchestrating what many believe to have been a false flag coup bid in cooperation with the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT). Military experts also found it strange for Özsert to have made contact with Aksakallı, who was not his commanding officer. The question of why Gen. Özsert did not contact his superior officer on the night of July 15 remains unanswered.
Özsert further claimed that he ordered the removal of flight equipment from tanker planes to cut off fuel supplies for F-16s in the air on the night of July 15 but later stated that he identified three tanker planes taking off from the base to provide fuel for fighter jets that were alleged to have been involved in the coup events. How did those tanker planes manage to fly when key flight equipment had been removed and they were disabled? Numerous inconsistencies in Gen. Özsert’s statement were not addressed, either, in the indictments or hearings in several leading cases in which alleged putschists were tried. As seen in dozens of other coup cases, the government-appointed judges seemed to be in rush to convict pro-NATO officers en masse on dubious charges during the trials without leaving much room for the defense to contest the evidence presented by prosecutors.
For the clandestine role he played in and around Incirlik Airbase, Özsert was rewarded by President Erdoğan and promoted to major general two weeks after the failed coup. He was one of only four generals to attain that rank, while two-thirds of all flag officers in NATO’s second largest army were dismissed and/or jailed on dubious terrorism and coup plotting charges. He was later appointed to head of the General Staff Intelligence Directorate (Genelkurmay İstihbarat Başkanlığı). In August 2019 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general.
Özsert and his team of defense and intelligence officials were exposed when their passports were published by the al-Marsad news outlet earlier this year. They were reportedly involved in classified military and intelligence operations in Libya, where the Erdoğan government was providing supplies, technical expertise and military assistance to armed Islamist groups. He is currently head of the the Defense’s Ministry Defense and Security Directorate (Milli Savunma Bakanlığı Savunma ve Güvenlik Genel Müdürlüğü).
In the coup trial concerning events at General Staff headquarters, Lt. Kübra Yavuz testified that she was deprived of food, beaten, tortured and electrocuted while in custody for two days at a shooting range on the General Staff compound to give a false statement while blindfolded and handcuffed from behind. She said the torture was carried out on the orders of Gen. Özsert and Gen. Aksakallı to coerce her to provide a false statement. She said she recanted her initial statement when she was finally brought before a court to stand trial in June 2018, two years after the incidents in question.
Yavuz was working for the protocol section at the General Staff and escorted MIT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan to the main door when he wrapped up a meeting with Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar in the evening hours of July 15. Many believe Fidan and Akar, who had had long meetings the day before, hammered out the final details of the false flag coup attempt at that meeting held at General Staff headquarters. As soon as Fidan left the building, the mobilization started, with units deployed to various locations on the pretext of responding to an imminent terrorist threat to military installations.