Photos of Babaoğlu, taken as he was playing golf in a tournament in Antalya's Belek district on Saturday, appeared in some newspapers on Tuesday along with critical comments. The fact that Babaoğlu left Antalya without attending a funeral held for Pvt. Ramazan Ye?il, one of the 17 soldiers killed at the Aktütün outpost on Friday, caused him to attract criticism from the public as well.
In its statement the General Staff said Babaoğlu had received no information about the Aktütün attack until Saturday evening. "It is saddening and thought provoking that the papers published reports on him without any confirmation." The statement said these reports aim to "exhaust the Turkish Armed Forces [TSK]."
However, the General Staff had already released news about the attack to the public on Saturday morning, and the attack was widely covered in the media.
Nevertheless, Babaoğlu, who spoke to the Hürriyet daily on Wednesday, said although the news about the killing of Turkish soldiers did not come to him immediately on that day, he personally gave orders for the operation launched later by cooperating with Ankara
He also said the criticism was unjust and was intended to exhaust the TSK.
"Should I have gone to Aktütün, then, to placate the people who have criticized me?" Babaoğlu said.
He said he left Antalya on Saturday evening and attended the funeral of a soldier held in the Central Anatolian province of Eski?ehir on Sunday, which was also attended by President Abdullah Gül.
"Unless it is slander or an insult, I am open to every kind of criticism. But this should not be the way to criticize someone. Were there any shortcomings in the role of the air forces in the incident? Were there any mistakes? No. All these criticisms are made to exhaust the TSK. Nobody should be unfair to the TSK or the air forces," he said.
The commander also explained that the air forces had operation centers that are on alert 24 hours a day. "Our staff is ready to act immediately in the wake of any such incidents," added Babaoğlu.