Retired admiral hits out at Turkey’s new defence minister Hulusi Akar

Retired Vice Admiral of the Turkish Naval Forces Atilla Kıyat has sent a biting “congratulatory message” to Hulusi Akar, the former chief of general staff who on Monday was appointed minister of defence in the first Cabinet under a new presidential system in Turkey.

“I agree with the president that nobody is better suited than you to this position. … Another reason for my happiness is that you will no longer be wearing the uniform,” Kıyat said in a message shared on social media this week, according to a report by online news outlet Ahval.

Atilla Kıyat

The retired officer went on to list six of what he characterised as Akar’s most serious shortcomings during his time as chief of general staff, a period that included a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

The “dark day” of the coup attempt “perpetrated by thousands of traitors who were under your command” is the first in Kıyat’s list of six “influential factors in your selection [as defence minister],” while the fact they held him hostage during the attempt is the second on the list.

Kıyat also took grave exception to the closure, under Akar’s watch, of military academies and high schools as part of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s crackdown on the military in the wake of the coup attempt, and to the expulsion of thousands of the schools’ students without any kind of hearing.

Hundreds of cadets have been imprisoned for allegedly taking part in the coup attempt. The cadets and their families say they were duped into participating in what their commanding officers told them were training exercises, another of the subjects Kıyat castigates Akar for.

Erdoğan has announced that he will establish a national defence university to replace the historic academies. Military hospitals were closed during Akar’s time in office. Kıyat criticised his passivity in allowing their closure.

Kıyat also said on his personal Twitter account that “since they saw that he could not defend the rights of the armed forces, they said he would be the most appropriate national defense minister for our extraordinarily developed democracy thanks to the new presidential system. I celebrate the selection as well as the elector.”

The vice admiral had previously taken Akar to task for his visit to former Turkish President Abdullah Gül during the run-up to the June 24 presidential and parliamentary elections.

Gül, an important figure in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) from its foundation, had been touted as a potential consensus candidate to represent a diverse opposition. Akar arrived in a military helicopter to pay a high-profile visit to Gül that many interpreted as a warning not to run. Gül did not.

“I waited, even prayed for days [that the visit] would be denied, but it wasn’t. Unfortunately, it was true; Akar visited Gül. Shame on you,” online news outlet T24 reported, quoting the messages of Kıyat.

NEW TURKISH CHIEF OF GENERAL STAFF’S CONTROVERSIAL PAST

Meanwhile, Turkey’s new chief of general staff, Yaşar Güler, has a curriculum vitae that boasts some of the country’s most impressive positions but is likely to be a divisive figure due to his involvement in controversies including the massacre of 34 Kurdish villagers, according to a report by BBC Turkish.

Having been hotly tipped for the job, the four-star general was named Turkey’s new chief of general staff after his predecessor, Akar, was assigned to the cabinet as defence minister under the new government on Monday.

Güler first came to public attention in 2010 when he shook the hand of then-President Abdullah Gül’s wife, Hayrunnisa Gül, during an official event. Most officers in the fiercely secularist military of the time had refused to shake the first lady’s hand due to her headscarf, a visible sign of religious faith that became the most visible symbol of the running fight between secularists and the AKP, which is rooted in Turkey’s tradition of political Islam.

The most serious scandal presided over by Güler came the next year, however, when he was posted to the General Staff’s Intelligence Department. On Dec. 28, a large group was detected crossing the border from the Turkish town of Uludere, known by its predominantly Kurdish residents as Roboski, into Iraq.

The order was given to launch an airstrike on the group, who were thought to be members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The ensuing F-16 strike killed 34 villagers, including 17 children.

Güler has been identified as the first officer to recommend an airstrike on the group, according to BBC. The general was involve in headline news again in 2014, when tapes were leaked allegedly showing wrongdoing by high-ranking government officials.

One of these tapes allegedly featured the voices of Ahmet Davutoğlu, the foreign minister at the time, Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation (MİT), and Güler.

On the tape, the voice said to be Güler’s pledges his support for Fidan’s MİT in its operations to aid Syrian rebels against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and tells Davutoğlu the Turkish Armed Forces are a “necessary tool” for the government, according to BBC.

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