Gov’t reforms Turkish army in wake of failed coup

Gov’t reforms Turkish army in wake of failed coup

It is not only sacking 1389 more members of the Turkish military on July 31 after 1684 four days ago on July 28 who were involved with or had suspected links to the July 15 failed coup attempt in Turkey.

It is also not only taking land, navy and air force commanders from the office of the Chief of General Staff and putting them under the Defense Ministry.

It is not only separating the Gendarmerie and the Coast Guard from the military and putting them under the Interior Ministry, along with the police force.

It is not only shutting down military schools to open the way to all high school graduates to become military officers; not only making the Defense Ministry all-civilian and founding a National Defense University to educate future civilian strategists; not only putting all military courts under the Justice Ministry and all military hospitals under the Health Ministry; not only increasing the political members of the Supreme Election Council (YAŞ) to decide on military promotions.

And it is not only removing major military facilities outside of big cities, mainly Ankara and Istanbul.
A major reform of the Turkish army has begun as of yesterday, July 31, with a series of government decrees in effect of law, issued under the state of emergency declared after the coup attempt.

According to President Tayyip Erdoğan, the move should be completed when the chief of general staff and the chief of intelligence, who are now under Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, are tied to the Presidency, but that would need a constitutional change. Erdoğan opened up about the issue to the leaders of the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahçeli, and also to the parliamentary delegation led by speaker İsmail Kahraman during meetings last week.

Bahçeli stands by Erdoğan on security matters in general. Kılıçdaroğlu’s CHP is likely to support the military reforms to increase the civilian control of the military, except for the chiefs of staff and intelligence peg, since they are already under the prime minister and with the concern that it may endorse Erdoğan’s executive presidency model target. Those issues are likely to be discussed in a constitutional change package which might come to the parliament’s agenda soon.

On paper, the reforms get the Turkish military closer to the NATO system, having the least civilian control over it among the member countries so far.

A military reform of this size was carried out 90 years ago in 1926 by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, after the foundations of the republic were declared on the remnants of the disintegrated Turkish empire under Ottoman rule. There were two earlier reforms of the Turkish military before that, one in the late 14th century under Orhan I with the foundation of the Janissary (in Turkish Yeniçeri, meaning the new soldier) system, and in 1826 by Mahmud II by dissolving it into a conscripted army.

The Turkish military, negatively influenced by the Cold War, became increasingly politicized and overthrew elected governments three times, in 1960, 1971 and 1980. In the 1960 coup the military detached itself from the Defense Ministry and assumed a sort of autonomy from governments and the 1980 coup, coinciding with the U.S.-led practice promoting Islam in the fight against the Soviets, further weakened the civilian control, or even interference, of the military. 

The picture changed with the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) coming to power in 2002 with its Islamic/conservative background and with the anti-establishment Ergenekon, Balyoz and military espionage court cases, where Kemalist, secular and presumably conspiratorial members of the military, judiciary and academia were eliminated.

Now Erdoğan says that the AK Parti was mistaken by the deceptions of the followers of his former ally, Fethullah Gülen, the Turkish Islamist preacher living in the U.S., in the judiciary, police force and intelligence and it was a Gülenist junta which carried out the July 15 failed coup attempt.

It seems that as the military became closed to civilian control, the Gülen Islamist movement made its way up the ranks, starting from controlling military schools and hiding themselves for decades, in some cases by pretending to be radical Kemalists.

The Turkish government wants the U.S. to send Gülen to Turkey so he can be tried as the leader of “Fethullahist Terror Organization” (FETÖ) and attempting to overthrow the government and constitutional order by force.