Vice President Joe Biden, in Turkey to reaffirm the U.S. alliance with Ankara the same day the Turks launched a new assault against the Islamic State in Syria, compared the recent coup attempt the country suffered to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against the United States.
Biden and Turkish Speaker of Parliament Ismail Kahraman Wednesday toured the damage to the parliament building inflicted by airstrikes during the coup attempt.
The pair walked out into in the middle of the complex where all the windows had been blown out by the blast and the ground was strewn with broken glass, rubble and twisted frames.
"This is devastating, can you imagine if this happened at home?" he asked. "Can you imagine what the American public would be saying or doing?"
He then asked reporters to imagine if the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001, had made it to the U.S. Capitol.
"Imagine what that would have meant, the psychological impact on the American people," he said.
A lot of Turks refer to the coup as their version of 9/11, and Biden appeared to be appealing to this widely held belief to counter claims that the U.S. hasn't been sufficiently supportive.
The Turkish government continues to believe that Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based cleric, was behind the plot, and conspiracy theories abound that the U.S. was somehow involved.
A senior administration official briefing reporters Thursday said those theories have no basis in truth.
"We were one of the first to denounce the ongoing coup attempt before it was resolved," the official said.
"But this was an extraordinary traumatic event. A lot of Turks refer to this as their 9/11, and it was an inside job" because elements in the military turned on the government in what they view as an "existential threat to their democracy," the official said.
The major goal of Biden's visit, the official said, is to "make sure that our alliance remains rock solid and relations get back on track."
The U.S.-Turkey alliance is especially important considering the fight against the Islamic State in neighboring Syria and Iraq, as well as ongoing conflict between the Turks and the Kurds.
"Neither one of us can afford to have that relationship be too strained at the moment," the official said.