Tur­key re­places land, air, naval forces com­man­ders

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Tur­key yes­ter­day re­placed the land, air and naval com­man­ders of the mil­i­tary, in a ma­jor shake-up of the armed forces just over a year af­ter a failed coup bid. The de­ci­sion from the na­tion’s top armed forces body-now dom­i­nated by min­is­ters rather than the mil­i­tary-marked an­other step in the grow­ing con­trol of the gov­ern­ment over the once all-pow­er­ful Turk­ish armed forces. The Supreme Mil­i­tary Coun­cil (YAS) de­cided to re­move land forces com­man­der Gen­eral Salih Zeki Co­lak, naval chief Ad­mi­ral Bulent Bostanoglu and air force com­man­der Gen­eral Abidin Unal, pres­i­den­tial spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said. Co­lak will be re­placed by Gen­eral Yasar Guler, cur­rently head of the gen­darmerie and for­mer deputy chief of staff, Kalin told re­porters in Ankara. Bostanoglu will be re­placed by Vice Ad­mi­ral Ad­nan Ozbal and Gen­eral Hasan Ku­cukakyuz would re­place Unal as air force com­man­der, he said. Their new roles start on Au­gust 30, Kalin added. Chief of Staff Gen­eral Hu­lusi Akar is how­ever to stay in his job. Kalin, the pres­i­den­tial spokesman, did not elab­o­rate on the rea­son­ing for their exit, but thanked the men for their ser­vice.

The de­ci­sion to re­place the com­man­ders also re­ceived the nec­es­sary go-ahead from Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, the spokesman said. The coun­cil usu­ally meets only once a year but this is the third meet­ing since the July 15, 2016 coup bid blamed on the US-based Mus­lim cleric Fethul­lah Gulen. He de­nies the charges. The gov­ern­ment upped the civil­ian com­po­nent of the coun­cil fol­low­ing the failed coup, giv­ing more place to gov­ern­ment min­is­ters than mil­i­tary fig­ures.

Fight against ter­ror

The de­ci­sion comes with the army still fight­ing an in­sur­rec­tion by the Kur­dis­tan Work­ers’ Party (PKK) in the south­east of Tur­key that in re­cent years has claimed the lives of hun­dreds of mem­bers of the se­cu­rity forces. It also waged a long cam­paign in­side Syria to oust Kur­dish mili­tia and ji­hadists from the bor­der area. “The big­gest threat to our fight against ter­ror is on­go­ing in­sta­bil­ity, lack of author­ity and civil war in coun­tries on our south­ern bor­der,” Prime Min­is­ter Bi­nali Yildirim told the meet­ing.

Pre­vi­ously, such meet­ings were held at mil­i­tary head­quar­ters but are now hosted by the prime min­is­ter. Un­der Er­do­gan, the po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence of the once all-pow­er­ful mil­i­tary re­spon­si­ble for over­throw­ing gov­ern­ments four times since 1960 has been weak­ened, es­pe­cially since the coup at­tempt. An emer­gency de­cree last year ruled deputy prime min­is­ters as well as jus­tice, for­eign and in­te­rior min­is­ters could join the coun­cil.

Fol­low­ing the at­tempted putsch, the gov­ern­ment dis­charged 149 gen­er­als, al­most half of the mil­i­tary’s en­tire con­tin­gent at the time of 358. Al­most 8,000 peo­ple from the Turk­ish armed forces have been sacked over al­leged links to the Gulen move­ment un­der the state of emer­gency im­posed af­ter the coup bid. Over 4,800 were from the land forces, state me­dia re­ported last month. Hun­dreds more per­son­nel have been sus­pended in a mil­i­tary shaken by the un­prece­dented purge which has af­fected most of the Turk­ish pub­lic sec­tor in­clud­ing ed­u­ca­tion.

Guler, the in­com­ing land forces com­man­der, was ab­ducted and held for sev­eral hours with the Chief of Staff Gen­eral Hu­lusi Akar and other mil­i­tary fig­ures on the night of the at­tempted over­throw. Some Turk­ish me­dia spec­u­lated over whether Guler would take over from Akar, in­clud­ing op­po­si­tion daily Cumhuriyet which said there was“no ob­sta­cle”left in front of Guler to be­come chief of staff. But Akar now ap­pears set to stay in his job un­til at least 2019.

In­ject­ing fresh blood into the top brass, the coun­cil pro­moted 61 colonels to ad­mi­ral or gen­eral sta­tus while an­other six gen­er­als and ad­mi­rals were given top rank sta­tus from Au­gust 30 on­wards, Kalin said. Other de­ci­sions the coun­cil made in­clude ex­tend­ing eight gen­er­als’ terms by a year while 168 colonels had theirs length­ened by two years, the de­fense min­istry said in a state­ment on its web­site. —AFP

ANKARA: This hand­out photo taken and re­leased by the Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter’s Press Of­fice shows Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter Bi­nali Yildirim, cen­ter, chair­ing the Turk­ish Supreme Mil­i­tary Coun­cil (YAS) meet­ing at Cankaya Palace in Ankara. —AFP

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