By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
ANKARA, Turkey, Feb. 3, 2013 – Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter has arrived in the Turkish capital to visit U.S. Embassy officials and staff here on Monday, and afterward to meet with defense leaders on a range of common security challenges.
During his embassy visit, the deputy secretary will offer condolences to the family and coworkers of the guard who was killed and those who were injured Feb. 1 when a single terrorist suicide bomber struck a checkpoint on the perimeter of the embassy, State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Friday.
A statement from the Turkish interior minister said officials here believe the attacker was a member of an outlawed leftist organization and they have begun an investigation.
Carter’s visit here was planned well in advance of the attack, according to James J. Townsend Jr., deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy, who is traveling with Carter.
“The only impact that bomb will have is to make us more determined to carry on with this trip,” Townsend added, “and to work with our Turkish colleagues to find out who did this and to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
Later in the day, Carter will meet with Minister of National Defense Ismet Yilmaz and other senior defense officials to help advance mutual defense cooperation, including NATO-led efforts to address the potential missile threat resulting from the conflict in Syria.
Afterward the deputy secretary will visit one of two U.S. Patriot missile batteries sent to Turkey as part of a NATO effort, and will speak with U.S. service members deployed here to operate the systems.
Germany and the Netherlands also sent two Patriot batteries each, and all six will be positioned in populated areas near Turkey’s border with Syria, where internal violence has surged since March 2011 between the government of Bashar al-Assad and those who oppose his regime.
With millions of Syrian refugees and errant shells crossing their border, Townsend said, “the Turks are under a lot of pressure. They’ve come to NATO a couple of times to talk.”
One reason for Carter’s visit, he added, “is to show solidarity with Turkey. We wanted to come talk to the Turks, get their insights on Syria and provide insights from Washington as well.”
Turkey is a NATO member that has a modern air force and a long history of military cooperation with the United States and NATO allies, working closely with the United States on humanitarian issues, chemical and biological weapons issues and missile defense.
On a visit here Dec. 14 to talk with troops at Incirlik Air Base, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced that he had signed an order to deploy 400 U.S. personnel to Turkey to support the NATO-approved deployment of Patriot missiles.
Incirlik is an installation of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, a major command of the U.S. Air Force and the air component of U.S. European Command, a DOD unified combatant command.
In November, NATO established a new ground forces command called the Allied Land Command in the western Turkish province of Izmir. Its first commander is U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Frederick B. Hodges, who Townsend said is “helping NATO ensure that it’s got the land force capability the alliance needs.”
Carter’s visit to Turkey is part of a six-day trip to Europe and the Middle East that began in Paris. He arrived in Turkey today from the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a premier U.S. medical center in Germany for treating wounded American and allied troops.
There, Carter joined Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden in a visit with service members and the talented doctors who care for them.
Tomorrow night, after leaving Turkey, Carter will travel to Amman, Jordan, to meet on Tuesday with U.S. Embassy personnel and government and defense leaders. He’ll also have lunch with troops to thank them for their service to the nation.