Top military board convenes to appoint new command echelon
AP photoThe Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) will convene for a regular annual meeting on Aug. 3 to discuss appointments and retirements in the top echelons of the Turkish Armed Forces amid ongoing cross-border operations in Iraq and Syria.
The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, is expected to endorse the appointment of Land Forces Commander Gen. Hulusi Akar as the chief of General Staff, replacing outgoing Gen. Necdet Özel.
Along with Davutoğlu, Özel and Akar, Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül, Naval Forces Commander Adm. Bülent Bostanoğlu, Air Forces Commander Gen. Akın Öztürk, Gendarmerie Forces Commander Gen. Abdullah Atay and deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Güler, as well as other top commanders, will be present at the two-day meeting.
The YAŞ meeting will decide on the new command echelon and announce the promotions of high-ranking officers, as well as the removal of military personnel to be sacked from the army.
This year’s annual meeting will observe the end of the tenures of three top generals, Özel, Bostanoğlu, Öztürk and Atay. Özel will reportedly hand over his position to Akar on Aug. 14 and has already started to pay farewell visits. But the tenures of other Air Force, Navy and Gendarmerie generals could be extended for another term.
If Akar succeeds Özel as the chief of General Staff, the strongest candidate to replace him as the new Land Forces commander is Gen. Galip Mendi, who is currently commanding Turkey’s Aegean Army. However, he may also be appointed as the new Gendarmerie Forces commander as he will enjoy his last year as the general in the army. In such a case, there are two main candidates for the Land Forces: either 1st Army Commander Gen. Salih Zeki Çolak or Güler.
The tenure of Öztürk, who has been the commander of the Air Force since 2013, expires this year, with expectations that he will be replaced by Gen. Abidin Ünal, the Air Missile Defense commander based at the Eskişehir Air Base. There is also speculation regarding a one-year extension of the tenure of Öztürk, as he is currently commanding an intensified aerial campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) targets in Syria and Iraq.
As for the navy, the problem is the shortage of admirals that would replace outgoing Bostanoğlu. As such, his tenure is likely to be extended for one year. In the meantime, Navy Commander Vice Adm. Veysel Kösele is expected to be promoted to the rank of admiral in this year’s YAŞ meeting so that he can be appointed as the Naval Forces Commander in 2016.
Importantly, participants are set to decide on the fate of high-ranking military personnel who have been convicted or accused of being part of the controversial Ergenekon and “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) coup attempts. Some 46 senior personnel whose promotions have been suspended due to these cases are now waiting to be promoted at YAŞ. Most of the personnel are from the Navy.
There is also speculation that a number of military personnel will be sacked from the army on the grounds that they are members of the Fethullah Gülen community, an erstwhile ally of the government.
The government has been carrying out a massive purge against the Gülen community within the state, particularly in the Police Department and judiciary.