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Dunford Discusses ISIL With Turkish Counterpart Ahead of NATO Meeting

SPLIT, Croatia, Sept. 16, 2016 — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff met today with his Turkish counterpart on efforts against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ahead of a NATO Military Committee conference here tomorrow.

The aim of Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford's meeting with Turkey's chief of the General Staff, Gen. Hulusi Akar, was to "advance discussions on the way forward in the fight against [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant]," said Navy Capt. Greg Hicks, Dunford's spokesman.

Dunford "recommitted to the close military-to-military and strategic relationship the U.S. has with Turkey," Hicks said. U.S. officials have hailed Turkey as an important member in the coalition against ISIL, noting U.S. and coalition forces have used Turkish territory to launch strikes against ISIL targets.

Recently, Turkish and moderate Syrian opposition forces liberated the northern Syrian city of Jarabulus and closed a major ISIL route between Jarabulus and Manbij.

Croatia Proud to Host

Croatia, which joined NATO in 2009, is honored to be hosting its inaugural NATO Military Committee Conference, said Lt. Col. Dražen Jonjić, senior advisor in the public affairs and publishing department for the Croatian armed forces.

"We are very proud ... to organize this type of conference. It's the first time in Croatia," he said, adding he has full confidence the meeting will be successful.

Earlier today, Dunford thanked Croatia's chief of defense, Gen. Mirko Šundov, for the host country's military leadership role in southeast Europe, its contributions to NATO operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo, and its continued efforts abroad, Hicks said.

Speaking to reporters, a U.S. official further commended Croatia for its contributions to global peace and security, describing the military as "very capable" and "very focused."

NATO Military Leaders Looking Forward

The chiefs of defense will discuss the decisions from the NATO heads of state and government summit held in Warsaw, Poland, in July, Lt. Col. Robert Koster of the Netherlands said. The military leaders will be looking for any new advice they can provide that can be brought to NATO ministerial-level talks in October, he added.

The topics of discussion tomorrow are to include Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Russia, mass migration, instability on the alliance’s eastern and southern flanks, and the threat of terrorism, Koster said, adding that robust discussions are expected.

"It's not just security in the NATO countries -- it's also security abroad," he said, noting that issues outside the alliance could affect NATO countries.

Czech Gen. Petr Pavel, the chairman of the NATO Military Committee, will chair the meeting. He will be supported by U.S. Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, the NATO supreme allied commander for Europe, and French Gen. Denis Mercier, NATO’s supreme allied commander for transformation. 

 (Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)
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