Turkish President Erdoğan appoints new top military brass

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday appointed Turkish Land Forces Commander Gen. Yaşar Güler as the new chief of general staff with a presidential decree published in the Official Gazette, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

After taking the oath of office as the first president under a new system of governance that was approved in a referendum in 2017, President Erdoğan on Monday had appointed Gen. Hulusi Akar, the current chief of general staff, as defense minister.

According to the report, Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Ümit Dündar was named the new commander of the Land Forces, and Lt. Gen. Metin Gürak was appointed as the new deputy chief of general staff by the new presidential decree.

A presidential decree published early Tuesday also stipulated that Turkey’s land, air and naval forces be subordinated to the Defense Ministry, hours after Gen. Akar was appointed as the new defense minister and Land Forces Commander Gen. Gürel became the top soldier.

The decree issued by President Erdoğan urges tight cooperation and coordination between the Office of the Chief of General Staff and the Defense Ministry. The decree stipulates the duties and responsibilities of the Defense Ministry under the new system. All three forces will serve under the defense minister, but the president will be able to engage with them when necessary and can give direct instructions.

In a bid to pursue an integrated working mechanism, the chief of general staff and the Defense Ministry will exchange information about their activities and will inform each other of all correspondence in which they are involved.

In line with the new regulations, the Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) has been dissolved. Erdoğan will be responsible for all promotions and dismissals within the military.

The new presidential decree has also granted power to President Erdoğan to make changes in the top brass of the military. Under the new decree, the president will decide on the promotion of top officers, including colonels, brigadier generals, rear admirals, generals and admirals, in the the Turkish armed forces.

The appointment of military officers is made every year on Victory Day, Aug. 30, but this date could also be changed by the president. The term in office the chief of staff will be four years.

A total of 3,077 personnel from the Land Forces Command, 1,126 from the Naval Forces, 1,949 from the Air Forces Command and 649 from the Gendarmerie Command were dismissed with the last state of emergency decree on Sunday.

Erdoğan’s ruling AKP government had dismissed 24,977 military members including 150 generals, 4,630 officers, 2,167 noncommissioned officers, 1,210 specialized sergeants, 411 civil servants and workers, and 16,409 cadets following a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 over alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement.

The government has been at the center of criticism for turning the Turkish Armed Forces into a political Islamist military in line with the wishes of President Erdoğan.

A military officer candidate was reportedly asked questions about the Quran and the anti-government Gezi protests of 2013 during an interview in October 2017.

In June, an imam-hatip, or religious high school, in İzmir province promised its graduates preference in enrollment at military and police academies.

Some find the Turkish government’s efforts to Islamicize the Turkish army alarming and warn that NATO risks having a member army filled with extremists.

In February of last year Henri Barkey, director of the Middle East Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center, said that many generals purged by the Turkish government are pro-NATO and pro-American, saying this could create a shift in Turkey-NATO relations. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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