The state of Turkey’s army as revealed by its top general
Gen. Hulusi Akar, the chief of the Turkish General Staff, finally sent written answers on May 29 to the parliamentary inquiry commission regarding their questions about the foiled military coup on July 15, 2016.
The answers were revealed to the public by Reşat Petek, an MP from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) who is also the head of the commission.
You can find the details of the answers in today’s edition of Hürriyet Daily News. But the most significant ones can be summarized as follows:
- A warning on the afternoon of July 15 by a helicopter pilot major at the Ankara Güvercinlik base caused the plotters to move their plans six hours ahead from 3 a.m. on July 16 to 9 p.m. on July 15. Akar believes that the outcome would have been much worse if they had started when they originally planned.
- There was also a tipoff from the pilot about the possible kidnapping of Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) chief Hakan Fidan in a raid by Turkish commandos on MİT’s headquarters. Given that there was some intelligence about possible kidnappings and assassinations of VIP names, Akar said they thought it could be “something bigger” than just a kidnapping but that the tipoff “was not about a coup d’état.”
- Akar says the top brass had been well aware of the “heinous activities” of the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ), which has been blamed for the coup attempt, within state institutions for many years.
That, Akar says, included the armed forces, which had been continuously scanning and cleansing the military of Gülenist personnel; still, no one thought Gülenists would dare go as far as to stage a coup.
Even though Akar says that the top brass and the government did their best not to permit Gülenist infiltration into the ranks, he also told the commission that it was his own chief aide,
Lt.-Col. Levent Türkkan, who put a gun to his head in his office while seizing him together with other coup plotters that night, such as Mehmet Dişli, who has now been expelled from the army and is currently on trial.
From the statements of those military officers who wish to benefit from the penitence law and from the indictments, we can understand that all military personnel, police officers, diplomats, judges and other public officers were under instructions from their “political commissars,” called “imams,” who might even be younger than them but were higher up in the Gülenist hierarchy.
The developments since the July 15, 2016, coup have broken a number of taboos regarding the Turkish military:
* The second biggest army in NATO, which is renowned for its discipline, had serious defects in the chain of command since thousands of its members were obeying the instructions of some civilians outside the army due to their common religious links instead of the military hierarchy.
* It seems the notion that members of the armed forces were indoctrinated with secular and Kemalist principles was actually a cover to be able to work clandestinely for an illegal religious network.
* The intellectual capacity of the top brass failed to assess the threat, judge the situation and take the necessary measures with a quick response and firm determination.
Regardless of the outcome of the inquiry, those topics require a restructuring of the Turkish military from its recruitment to training and from the chain of command to the principles of promotion, all of which have to be debated in detail.