— -- As many in Washington focus on the the political spectacle in Cleveland, a number of high-ranking international diplomats and defense officials have quietly assembled around the capitol to discuss the future of Iraq and how to defeat ISIS.
At the U.S. State Department this morning, Secretary John Kerry, along with representatives from Germany, Japan, Kuwait, the Netherlands and Canada, announced that together they had pledged $2 billion dollars in humanitarian support for Iraq. $310 million of that will come from the United States.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter held a defense ministerial meeting with members of the anti-ISIS coalition at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. There, Carter secured an agreement from France that it would step up its role in the fight by deploying its sole aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gualle, in support of the mission.
Noticeably absent from the discussions was any senior leadership from Turkey. The Turkish Defense and Foreign Ministers stayed home as their government responds to last week's failed attempt at a military coup.
That failed coup and its potential to distract Turkey from the mission against ISIS, along with reports that the U.S. killed 56 civilians in a botched airstrike in Manbij, Syria yesterday, appeared to dominate much of the attention at today's events.
"We'll investigate these reports and continue to do all we can to protect civilians from harm," Secretary Carter said today. "Being scrupulously careful to avoid civilian casualties and being transparent about this issue is a reflection of the civilized nature of this coalition."
I had a conversation with the Turkish Defense Minister yesterday and he assured me that Turkey's participation in and support for what we're talking here about today, namely the counter-ISIL campaign, is unchanged and he'd like to be here if he could, but obviously because of the circumstances, his delegation was here instead. So there hadn't been any change.
Secretary Kerry, however, seemed less assured that the Turks would be able to stay focused on the anti-ISIS mission. "I can’t sit here and say with absolute certainty because it’s a situation that is evolving, Kerry told reporters today. "[The Turks] have indicated it will not interrupt."
But power to the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey still remains severed, forcing the U.S. operation flying anti-ISIS missions to continue using generator power. Kerry says he's been assured by the Turkish ambassador that power will be restored in the coming days.
Kerry was also asked again about Fetullah Gulen, the Turkish exile living in Pennsylvania who is being blamed by the Turkish government for orchestrating the failed coup. Gulen has become a major sore point in diplomatic relations between the NATO allies, as Turkey has demanded he be exiled and stand trial. Today, Turkish President Recip Erdogan said any failure to do so would be a "big mistake."
Kerry said he hasn't yet seen the formal extradition request and that anything sent to the U.S. Department of Justice must meet the "very strict set of requirements" the U.S. demands before an extradition can take place. Officials at the State Department have indicated this could be a very lengthy process, if it happens at all.
"In my comments directly to the foreign minister of Turkey –- and we talked about four times in the span of 36 hours –- I said please don’t send us allegations, send us evidence; we need to have evidence which we can then make a judgment about," Kerry said.