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YUSUF KANLI > ‘Scream’ of a prime minister

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No one would think Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would one day realize the impact on the security of the country of the extended detention of top generals of the country within the framework of the alleged Ergenekon, Sledgehammer and İzmir spying cases and such or simply the “domestication of the military” program his government has been implementing since 2007.

Complaining that not only were top commanders unable to help their comrades in arms get back their freedoms under the laws and regulations, they were “compelled to help out in the rounding up of those still out of prisons,” Naval Fleet Cmdr. Adm. Nusret Güner called it quits last week. Indeed he apparently resigned back in November but was “requested for a fresh analysis in January” and as nothing has changed over the past few months went ahead with his decision.

Adm. Güner was the last full admiral in the Navy who could take over from the retiring Navy Cmdr. Murat Bilgel. The Navy now needs two full admirals, there is only one vice admiral (Bülent Bostanoğlu) eligible for promotion. Will a vice admiral be appointed as fleet commander and the promoted vice-admiral as the new Navy commander? Or will Adm. Bilgel’s term in office be extended by one more year with some forced interpretation of the regulations?

An almost identical but less serious situation exists in the Air Force as well. In the August promotion Supreme Military Council only one full general, the current Air Force Cmndr. Mehmet Erten, will retire. Like the Navy, where most admirals are behind the bars, many air force generals are under detention and only Lt. Gen. Abidin Ünal is eligible to be promoted to full general. In the Land Forces the situation is not that critical, prosecutors may still have the luxury of rounding up quite a lot of generals of all ranks. Joking aside, almost one in three generals or admirals of the country has so far tasted the conditions of prisons. Out of around active 300 generals and admirals, some 80 are in prison (some 40 were sent to retirement last year). Besides, hundreds of officers and retired generals and officers are behind bars.

The “scream” of the prime minister that extended detention of soldiers was adversely affecting the morale of the military at a time when the nation needed most their dedication in the fight against separatist terrorism and must be heard with this bitter background of the situation of the Turkish military.

The most popular joke in the country for some time is that if after compulsory retirement of 40 admirals and generals at last year’s Supreme Military Council (because of the regulation that those detained cannot be promoted or have their waiting period at rank extended) and if this domestication of the military pogrom continues, it should not be surprise to see some sergeants filling general seats. That joke, of course not to that extent, is becoming a reality and even the prime minister has realized what great damage his government has done to the defense of the country.

This year the commanders of the Land, Navy, Air and Gendarmerie forces will have to be replaced. How? The “scream” of the prime minister becomes all the more meaningful; he has no idea how to solve this puzzle as well without taking out at least some generals and admirals out of prisons.

January/28/2013

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