Strategy department as a putschist laboratory

Strategy department as a putschist laboratory

One of the key figures in the July 15, 2016, coup attempt was the head of the Strategic Transformation Department of the General Staff, Maj. Gen. Mehmet Dişli. While defending himself in a statement to the prosecutor on July 18, 2016, he said: “I have worked with the commander for 16 years at several levels. I regard the commander as a part of my family.” 

When you compare the biographies of Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and Dişli – the latter tried to persuade Akar to take the lead of the coup that night – one can see clearly that especially after 2000, they really worked together closely. For instance, while Akar was in Naples between 2000 and 2002 at NATO headquarters, Dişli was also at the same quarters between 2000 and 2003. On his return to Ankara, Akar was the Military Academy commander and Dişli also served under him. 

Akar was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general in 2007. He was the 3rd Corps Commander in Istanbul in 2009 and Dişli was his chief of staff as a staff colonel. 

They were separated for two years but started working together again in 2012. Dişli’s department in the General Staff headquarters was the Project Management Department. In 2016, Akar upgraded the department’s status and changed its name. 

The department Dişli headed was first founded with the aim of providing scientific support to the top command. Its original name was “Scientific Decision Support Center,” but its name was subsequently changed twice. It was tasked with designing the change and transformation for the future of the armed forces. Its staff was predominantly made up of staff officers. 

Dişli was at the head of this critical department planning the future of the Turkish Armed Forces for four years, until the moment he walked into the office of Akar on the night of July 15, 2016. According to Akar’s statement, Dişli said, “My commander, the operation is starting. We will take everybody. Battalions and brigades are on the way; you will see soon…” 

In the General Staff Headquarters main case, the administrative inquiry report of the Turkish General Staff drafted after the coup attempt was also included. In this report, there is an interesting finding about the department Dişli was heading. According to this finding, Dişli worked with 20 staff officers in the four years he headed this department. Among these 20 staff officers, 18 of them are now dead, dismissed or arrested. 

This finding means this: The strategic center that was formed to provide scientific support to the top command and to plan and design the future of Turkish Armed Forces effectively became a professional laboratory to generate putschists at a rate of 90 percent.

In the General Staff report, the names of these officers who were determined to be members of the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) and who were involved in the coup attempt are listed. For instance, Staff Col. Ahmet Özçetin, who commanded the F-16 planes that took off from Akıncı Air Base, was among the staff officers who served in the aforementioned department. Also, Staff Maj. Pilot Mustafa Azimetli, who later bombarded the Turkish National Police Aviation Department in Gölbaşı and who also flew low over Kızılay, was one of the staff officers who served at this strategic department. Several people lost their lives in these attacks. 

Also, the raid on the Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) headquarters in Ankara was conducted by Staff Lt. Col. Ümit Gençer, who is also from that department. 

In this list, there is also Staff Gendarmerie Cpt. Zekeriya Açıkgöz, who was killed in an armed clash on the night of the July 15 in Ankara. 

Of course, there could be some who would argue it is only a coincidence that these coup-plotting staff officers worked with Dişli in this department. As it is, I am only conveying the findings of the General Staff report.