Turkey's military council convenes to draw new command in key meeting
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C) chairs the annual meeting of the Supreme Military Council in Ankara.
The Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) of Turkey on Monday convened for an annual meeting to shape the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) new command echelon.
The meeting, which is being chaired by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, comes on the heels of requests from four top military commanders, including the chief of General Staff, to retire.
The council, which convenes every August to discuss promotions and dismissals within the armed forces, convened for this year's YAŞ meeting early on Monday with nine generals, the prime minister and the defense minister in attendance. The council used to include 14 generals, but this year's YAŞ will only have nine generals since four general retired early and one is under arrest as part of a coup plot probe.
Erdoğan's government has been curbing the military's clout since he came to power in 2002 and Friday's resignations have strengthened his hand. The government is poised to fill the leadership vacuum by officially appointing Gen. Necdet Özel, the gendarmerie general commander, as chief of General Staff. Özel is presently serving as acting chief of staff and army commander. The positions for commander of the navy, air force and gendarmerie are also vacant.
Last Friday, Chief of General Staff Gen. Işık Koşaner, Land Forces Commander Gen. Erdal Ceylanoğlu, Naval Forces Commander Adm. Eşref Uğur Yiğit and Air Force Commander Gen. Hasan Aksay requested retirement in protest of the government's determination to not promote coup suspects at the YAŞ meeting.
Currently there are 195 suspects, all retired and active duty members of the armed forces, in the ongoing “Sledgehammer case,” a suspected coup plan devised at a military gathering in 2003 which allegedly sought to undermine the government in order to lay the groundwork for a military takeover. More senior military personnel were recently arrested and have been jailed on charges of links to the subversive coup plan. The government is against the promotion of 41 Sledgehammer suspects who are active TSK members.
Led by Erdoğan, YAŞ members paid a visit to Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, on the first day of YAŞ. The YAŞ meeting is to be concluded on Thursday and the decisions taken by the council will be presented to President Abdullah Gül for approval on the same day. Gül will host an iftar (fast-breaking dinner) for members of YAŞ at the Çankaya presidential palace on Wednesday. The president will not host a luncheon as he has in past years since this year's YAŞ coincides with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast.