COMMENTARY — Turkey’s spy colonel Kemal Eskintan, master of conspiracy plots

By Abdullah Bozkurt

Based on a wealth of revelations in the last couple of years during trial proceedings, the view that the false flag coup attempt of 2016 that was set to fail from the start with very limited mobilization in Turkey and was planned by president Recep Tayyip Erdogan with two of his cohorts, namely intelligence and military chiefs Hulusi Akar and Hakan Fidan, was further reinforced.

We already knew the planners at the policy level, which had been undergoing fine-tuning for some time during frequent meetings between Akar and Fidan with the approval of Erdogan. The two came together a day before the July 15 events and had unusually long conversations on a military base at the graduation ceremony for trainees in the Special Forces Command. They also met on July 15 during the day at General Staff headquarters and talked about the final details for three hours.

In total, the two spent almost nine hours out of 24 together before any military mobilization in Istanbul that gave the appearance of an ongoing putschist attempt. A minute after Fidan left military headquarters, a group of putschists conveniently attempted to take over the headquarters. We later learned from the testimony of those involved in this action that they were sent to secure the premises against a possible terror attack on General Staff headquarters.

It is time to expose who was involved at the tactical level that helped execute this false flag, which created a pretext for Erdogan to set the opposition up for mass persecution, mainly the Gülen movement, but not limited to this group; allowed a military incursion into Syria; and consolidated his power by securing an imperial presidency.

On the military side, the man who played a key role at the operational level was Maj. Gen. Zekai Aksakallı, commander of the Special Forces (ÖKK). In fact, he also talked privately with intelligence chief Fidan on the night of July 14 after Akar left the ceremony. Aksakallı is the man who approved the secret Unconventional Operation (KOH) plan on July 11, 2016 that set the stage for military mobilization to bolster the false view that a coup had actually been put in motion.

Although a lot has been written about the role of Aksakallı that raised more questions on the coup and further challenged the Turkish government’s official coup narrative, little is known about the man who executed the false flag from his office at the headquarters of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT).

My research and conversations with several intelligence sources suggest Kemal Eskintan, a pro-Erdogan figure who served as a colonel in the army before retirement and subsequent transfer to MIT. When Fidan was tapped by Erdogan as head of the intelligence agency in 2010, he brought Eskintan to his select team at the agency and assigned him as head of the department responsible for providing protective services to high-value people.

However, his main portfolio has been management of the Turkish government’s clandestine links with jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq, where groups affiliated with both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) received arms, logistical supplies, financial aid and even intelligence tips from MİT. The illegal arms transfers to the Nusra Front in Syria was coordinated by Eskintan, who was involved in the Syria file when he was a lieutenant in the army in 2001.

As a young officer, he was part of a delegation led by then-Interior Minister Rüştü Kazım Yücelen to secure agreements with Damascus amid tension between Turkey and Syria stemming from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) presence in Syrian territory. Just like his boss Fidan, who was raised in Shiite study circles in Ankara as a pro-Iranian asset when he was a noncommissioned officer, Eskintan is also known for his close links to Iranian intelligence. In fact, many operations planned by Fidan and Eskintan mimic the rules in the Islamist Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force playbook. No wonder Fidan and others were closely working with Quds Force generals assigned to cover Turkey.

Eskintan had played a role in Arab revolutions from Tunisia and Libya to Egypt and Syria since 2011, pleasing Erdogan with his performance. He was rewarded by the government in 2014 when he was promoted to be head of the department of special operations in 2014. He helped orchestrate false flag terror acts, often blamed on ISIL or the PKK, that helped Erdogan secure more votes from a frightened public in local, parliamentary and presidential elections in 2014 and 2015.

His role in the false flag coup of 2016 made him deputy undersecretary in 2017, the number two in the Turkish intelligence agency while he still in command of special operations. Now he is busy contemplating the abduction and assassination of Erdoğan’s critics abroad and has assembled a special team at the intelligence agency at the operational level to intimidate exiled critics, opponents and dissidents of the Turkish government. He is also facilitating the travel of some jihadists to Europe to make good on Erdoğan’s public threat that nobody would be able to walk safely on the streets of Europe.

This shadowy figure was instrumental in cracking down on widespread Kurdish protests on Oct. 6-8, 2014 in the southeastern part of Turkey amid anger over the Turkish government’s policies regarding clashes between the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and ISIL in the northern Syrian city of Kobane. Eskintan coordinated special forces units’ involvement in major security sweeps, especially in the town of Cizre, that led to the death of over 40 people, most at the hands of the security forces. At the same time, he also pitted the outlawed Islamist Kurdish movement Hizbullah against the outlawed PKK at the time.

In testimony as a witness to the parliamentary commission, Special Forces Commander Aksakallı revealed that he had been in contact with Eskintan on the day of the coup and talked to him frequently. He claimed that he told the MİT officer that the military unit which was sent to clear putschists from ÖKK headquarters only had sidearms and that they needed heavy arms and asked MİT to provide such military hardware.

This is quite a strange request considering that ÖKK has arms stashed all over for contingencies and that Aksakallı could easily have gotten his hands on the arsenal that even MIT had no access to. Eskintan reportedly told him that he had been busy protecting Erdogan’s palace but promised to deliver weapons to him as Aksakallı had requested. For reasons that are hard to explain, the ÖKK commander also maintained that he was able to get on a military base with an armored vehicle provided by Eskintan.

As far as we know, Eskintan has never testified as a government witness either to prosecutors who investigated the coup bid or to the court that heard statements from suspects and witnesses during trial proceedings. He did not show up at the parliamentary commission that investigated the coup events, either. This is quite bizarre given the fact that he played a key role in shaping the events, especially in Ankara, based on the account provided by Aksakallı’s testimony. It fuels further speculation that the government wants to cover up his footprints and hide his real role in the false flag bid.

The lynching of soldiers and cadets who had surrendered by jihadist thugs on Istanbul’s Bosporus Bridge and the storming of General Staff headquarters by unknown armed men in Ankara were all planned by Eskintan’s office, which had maintained close ties to jihadist groups for years. Paramilitary units were mobilized in advance, taking positions at specific locations and timed to not only make the false flag as bloody as possible but to also give the appearance that the public was actually taking to the streets against the coup plotters.

After victims’ families filed criminal complaints, prosecutors set out to investigate the lynching of unarmed cadets who were summoned to the bridge for a drill and training exercise but were prevented by the Erdogan government’s hastily arranged decree-law that provided blanket immunity to civilians who participated anti-coup events on July 15 and 16.

Erdogan and his henchmen planned the coup attempt to be bloodier than the current toll to create a shock and awe effect on the Turkish public, but at some locations the plot did not work out as planned. The common-sense approach by some officials, civilian and military, helped contain the situation quickly. Although Eskintan’s plan in İstanbul and Ankara had worked smoothly, the escalation of bloody events in the southeastern provinces did not pan out as MİT had planned.

For example, he organized the cross-border movement of some 200 jihadists to stage terror acts for further chaos. A smaller unit from this group was ordered to go to the town of Birecik in Turkey’s southeastern province of Şanlıurfa on the Syrian border. When the crowd gathered in the town square at the urging of President Erdogan on the night of the coup, MIT’s clandestine operation to exact a further toll on citizens was revealed when police intelligence was tipped off about the movement of the jihadist group by another branch of MIT.

Both Mayor Mehmet Faruk Pınarbaşı and the city police counterterrorism department head Erdal Akyürek tried to persuade the group to disband because of the serious intelligence threat to civilians. Both officials told the crowd that there was no putschist activity in the gendarmerie unit in the city, that everything was under control and that they should go home to avoid a threat that seemed credible.

Hizbullah’s operatives among the crowd, mobilized by MİT, resisted the call, trying to defy the mayor and police chief. In the end, the mayor was able to convince the crowd to go home at 3 a.m. Police Chief Akyürek was later punished by the government for trying to protect civilians from a jihadist threat and jailed on fabricated charges to hush up the case.

There are lots of skeletons in Eskintan’s closet. We’ll know more about the extent of his involvement in clandestine and illegal activities to shore up Erdogan’s regime when the rule of law is restored in Turkey in the future, and he will be held accountable for the dirty deeds he helped MİT commit.

Perhaps he will be whisked away one day by the intelligence service of a foreign government whose citizens perished in one of his bloody plots. It would be divine justice for a man who planned to kidnap and murder regime critics to suddenly find himself snatched up and extradited to stand trial for the crimes he committed. (

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