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Will We Endanger Troops in Afghanistan to Help Turkey?

Turkey’s behavior has been atrocious in recent years. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) has presided over a regime which, according to the Pew Global Attitudes Survey, is now the world’s most anti-American. Statistics released by Turkey’s Justice Ministry to Turkey’s own parliament show that, under AKP tutelage, the murder rate of women in Turkey has increased 1,400 percent. Erdoğan has placed more than five dozen journalists in prison; many have never had the opportunity to defend themselves in court. Turkey now ranks alongside Russia among the worst offenders of press freedom in the industrialized world. Namik Tan, the Turkish ambassador in Washington, has marred his tenure by facilitating the threatening of critics of Erdoğan in the United States. In recent months, Turkish ministers have even threatened Israel and Cyprus with military force.

So what does President Obama propose to do? Send Super Cobra helicopters and perhaps even armed Predators to Turkey to fight Kurdish insurgents. Granted, Turkey has been fighting a Kurdish insurgency for almost 30 years, and the United States already provides real time intelligence to support Turkish forces.

In the past, the Pentagon has declined to send Super Cobra helicopters and additional Predators to Turkey because they were needed in Afghanistan. Defense officials have not explained to Congress why the Super Cobras and Predators are no longer needed to support our troops who are putting their lives on the line to secure Afghanistan and, with it, American national interests.

Privately, administration officials will say the sale of Super Cobras and Predators is part of a quid pro quo in exchange for Turkey hosting an early warning radar. There are three problems with this. First, other countries offered to host the facility without any conditionality. Second, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said Turkey will only abide by its agreement for two years, and might annul it at any time. And, third, the United States already provides Turkey with a great amount of weaponry, albeit platforms not needed in Afghanistan at this moment in time. So, in sum, the Obama administration seeks to take weaponry crucial for Afghanistan out of the arsenal of American troops, transfer them to an anti-American regime in Turkey and, in exchange, get little if anything.

On October 28, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency formally notified Congress of its intent to transfer the Super Cobras to Turkey; Congress has 15 days to object. Senator John McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has remained silent. A bipartisan group of representatives, however, have voiced objections. It’s time for McCain to explain why he believes it is in America’s interest to supply our adversaries at the expense of our troops.



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