Turkey’s military reshuffle aims for a new structuring following FETÖ coup attempt

Turkey’s military reshuffle aims for a new structuring following FETÖ coup attempt

Serkan Demirtaş - ANKARA
Turkey’s military reshuffle aims for a new structuring following FETÖ coup attempt Turkey’s annual military reshuffle was focused on bringing about a new shape and vision to the command echelon with replacements of land, air and naval forces commanders as well as promotions of commando colonels as generals, a year after the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) were shaken entirely because of a failed coup staged by a high-ranking personnel loyal to the U.S.-based Fethullah Gülen.

The top brass of the TSK that will be in place until 2019 is composed by Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, Land Forces Commander Gen. Yaşar Güler, Air Forces Commander Gen. Hasan Küçükakyüz and Naval Forces Commander Vice Adm. Adnan Özbal. Gendarmerie Forces Commander will be appointed later by the Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu. 

The replacements came nearly a year after military and civilian members of the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ) attempted to overthrow the government through a coup on July 15, 2016, bombing the parliament and other state buildings and killing 249 people. 

The surprise of this year’s Supreme Military Board (YAŞ) decisions took place at the Naval Forces Commander as a vice admiral has been appointed as commander instead of Fleet Commander Adm. Veysel Kösele who was highly expected to be promoted to the position. Vice Adm. Özbal’s appointment has seemingly created a controversy as Adm. Kösele is still in his position as the fleet commander despite expectations that he would ask for his retirement. According to sources at the Defense Ministry, the situation of Adm. Kösele will later be determined. The promotions and retirements will have to be concluded by Aug. 30.

One of the reasons why Kösele was denied the position of force commander is believed to be his reluctance in fighting against identified members of FETÖ within the Turkish Navy Fleet before and after the coup attempt. The decision to stop his promotion was given by the political authority. As Adm. Kösele has not fulfilled his term in his rank, the TSK cannot force him to retire but can appoint him to a more passive position. 

Commando colonels promoted

As a result of the YAŞ meeting, six generals and admirals have been promoted to a higher rank while 61 colonels have been upgraded to the rank of general or admiral. The terms of eight generals have been extended by one year and 168 colonels by two years. The majority of colonels who have been promoted to generals are currently commanding commando brigades in the eastern and southeastern Anatolian regions that have been carrying out a hard fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).  

A civilian may be appointed as Gendarmerie Commander

As Gendarmerie Forces Commander Gen. Yaşar Güler is promoted to Land Forces Commander, the Interior Ministry will have to appoint a new figure to the gendarmerie. However, with a change in its structure after the July 15 coup attempt, the gendarmerie forces have been taken fully under civilian control and the new commander will be appointed by Interior Minister Soylu. The minister will have the flexibility to appoint a civilian as the gendarmerie commander in line with the mentioned change in the force structure. 

Head of communication department also retired

Among the retired from the TSK is Brigadier Gen. Ertuğrulgazi Özkürkçü, who has been running the Communication Department of the Office of the Chief of General Staff since 2013. The commander of the Education and Doctrine Unit Lt. Gen. Tahir Bekiroğlu has also retired. It is yet uncertain as to who will replace both retired generals. 

FETÖ victims appointed as generals 

This year’s reshuffle marked another first as some colonels who had to leave the army years ago because of the FETÖ-related plots and re-gained their status after the July 15 coup attempt have been promoted as generals.