How the Turkish Armed Forces Is Being Reshaped
The AKP government declared state of emergency for three months right after the 15th July 2016 coup attempt that Erdogan described as “a gift from God” and as a violation of Constitution has repeatedly extended it so far. By this state of emergency, he has been ruling Turkey with the decrees without any control of Supreme Court and Parliament. Despite having no right, by abusing these decrees the Government has purged overwhelming numbers, around 150,000 public officials including %80 of entire serving generals and admirals along with %90 of staff officers who have secular and democratic worldviews, care about human rights and consider being in good terms with Western countries and NATO.
The structure of the Turkish Armed Forces has been permanently changed by a decree. The Commands of Army, Navy and Air Forces, which had been under the command of General Staff, to the Ministry of National Defense and thus turned the General Staff into a consultant and symbolic position, which undermined the command control in the army, disrupted the ability of planning and coordination, and paralyzed the bedrock of the Armed Forces. Beside these regulations, in an attempt to eradicate its democratic and secular base established by Ataturk, the structure and modus operandi of Supreme Military Counsil (Yüksek Askeri Şura-YAŞ) also has been changed. YAŞ determines promotions, appointments and retirements of generals and high-ranking staff officers in Turkish Armed Forces, as well as for dismissal of military personnel from the army and extension of service for some high-ranking staff officers. Now, it overwhelmingly consists of Ministers instead four-star Generals.
On the other hand, Erdogan has given the authorization to inject his political Islamic thoughts into the military. If one examines the outcomes of two supreme military councils after July 15, 2016, it can be seen how politics infiltrate into the military as well as decision on promotions, appointments and retirements of military staff. Those are made according to their loyalties to Erdogan and Perincek, head of ultra-nationalist Political Vatan Party, instead of competencies.
In 2016 YAŞ, Erdogan and his political party AKP handed over critical positions in the chain of command to ultra nationalist military staff by the help of the group linked to Perincek and defendants of Ergenekon and Balyoz cases while , many generals and admirals were silently forced to resign before the YAS to hide Erdogan’s dismissal score.
As for the 2017 YAŞ decisions; an oddness is seen at first glance Despite the already vacant positions in the high level of generals, only 6 generals and admirals have been promoted to higher ranks, while 14 Generals and Admirals in the ranks of Major, Lieutenant, and Four Star/Admiral General have been retired from the command echelon which is crippling the command and control even more. In fact, this strangeness can be explained by the fact that these positions were kept for the supporters of Erdogan and Perinçek in the Armed Forces, who are in lower ranks and are not on the promotion line yet. By retirees and limited number of promotions, possible future rivals of pro-Erdogan and pro-Perincek were eliminated. After July 15, 2016, mostly pro-Western generals and admirals, who were not jailed and remained in the Army without being discharged, have been purged with the last Council.
When the last two YAŞ decisions are examined, we can see that they try to reach the same aim using a different tactic. With the last Council, it seems that Erdogan keeps looking after his ‘Gang Allies’ whichever might be. The only criteria for promotion is either being linked to one of the gang allies (SADAT, nationalist gangs in the line of Sedat Peker, Sledgehammer-Ergenekon Structure, ultra-nationalist, pro-Russian Perincek Structure/Gang) or being totally unqualified or unskilled. The smallest tendency towards democratic values or NATO, the US, the EU camp is a criterion of inadmissibility in promotion.
In a nutshell; the common characteristics of the newly promoted group is their being detached from NATO, the US and the EU, and even blaming them as the reason for every negative development in the country. It is crystal clear that the promoted pro-Erdogan opportunists and political Islamists will be easily controlled by the ultra-nationalist wing generals because, they were chosen from the unqualified weak candidates among their peers and for the upcoming promotions they will not be qualified to be rivals to the ultra-nationalists. At the end of the day, armed forces will be controlled by ultra-nationalists (Sledgehammer-Ergenekon and Perincek structure).