The Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) is staffed by high-ranking generals, with civilian decision-makers having less control over the promotion and retirement of generals.
However, since 2010, President Abdullah Gül and the government have begun asserting legal power during YAŞ meetings with regard to the promotion and retirement of generals and admirals to ensure that active duty generals facing coup plot charges would not be promoted or that their duties in under the same positions would not be extended. However, the government has not yet made any changes in the relevant laws to end the functions of YAŞ as main decision-making body with regard to promotions, appointments and extensions of the duties of generals. Furthermore, no changes have been made towards YAŞ' ability to discharge officers from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) despite the fact that YAŞ is one of the important tools for the military to continue its autonomous status.
YAŞ has 13 members and consists of senior generals, including the chief of General Staff and four service commanders as well as two civilian members -- i.e., the prime minister and the minister of defense. This asymmetrical membership composition of YAŞ requires a change in the board's founding law as one of the means to democratize civil-military relations.
A report published on July 22, 2011 by the Ankara-based Institute of Strategic Thought (SDE), a pro-government think tank, suggested that processes such as promotion, appointment, extension and discharge from the TSK should be removed from YAŞ' list of duties and responsibilities and that it should be transformed into advisory institution.
In that context, YAŞ should be responsible for issues such as determining strategic military concepts and arms modernization of the TSK as defined in Article 3 of Code 1612 Concerning the Foundation the Supreme Military Council and Duties.
By amending the Article 125 of the Constitution, YAŞ' decisions -- including promotion as well as retirement due to lack of positions -- should be subjected to the inspection of judicial authorities, the SDE report suggested, among other things.
However, the golden days when the government focused on military reforms have become a thing of the past and have been replaced by a de facto alliance that the government forged with the military. Ending YAŞ' status as a complementary instrument for the military to continue its autonomous structure has been dropped from the agenda.
Instead of making changes in the relevant laws to end YAŞ' controversial status, the government is understood to have been using its indirect influence over the military to purge officers that it thinks is close to the Hizmet movement, inspired by Islamic Scholar Fethullah Gülen -- Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's ally-turned-enemy. Erdoğan believes that Hizmet has sought to unseat his government, but he has been unable to come up with evidence to support his claims.
A report run by the pro-government Akşam daily last week stated that 40 generals and admirals as well as one service commander have links with the Hizmet movement and that a special team was allegedly established within the Office of the Prime Ministry for their purge ahead of a four-day biannual meeting of YAŞ to be held between Aug. 1 and 4. The report brought back to the surface long-speculated government plans to spread its witch hunt to the military.
A recent news report, meanwhile, suggested that the government is seeking to strip officers dismissed from the TSK of their right to appeal to the judiciary, their right to legal remedies and their right to a defense attorney. However, those officers dismissed from the TSK were given the right to appeal to the judiciary in a 2010 referendum that approved major changes within the 1982 Constitution, which was authored by a junta responsible for staging the 1980 military coup.
According to a draft law being debated in the parliamentary Planning and Budget Commission, Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputies submitted a proposal under which those military officers, gendarme personnel, police officers and bureaucrats sacked or reassigned to different positions in recent months because of links to the Hizmet movement will not be able to appeal to the judiciary, according to a report in the Milliyet daily published on July 3.
According to a report in the Akşam daily, one unnamed commander – in addition to 40 unnamed generals and admirals -- was allegedly going to be purged because of links to the Hizmet movement. This commander is speculated to be Turkish Land Forces Cdr. Gen. Hulusi Akar, who has the potential to replace to replace Gen. Necdet Özel and become the next chief of General Staff when Gen. Özel retires in 2015, as long as his term of duty is not extended for another two years until he reaches the retirement age, 65.
Gen. Akar is also rumored to no longer be favored by the government; through the Akşam daily's report, believed to have been leaked by some government officials, he was allegedly targeted by the AK Party.
Will YAŞ, which will hold its biannual meeting to be chaired by Erdoğan on Aug. 1, initiate a purge from within itself?
The military denied the Akşam daily's report of a purge within the TSK of officers suspected to have links with the Hizmet movement in a statement it released on June 29.
During closed-door meetings with a number of officials, Gen. Yaşar Güler, deputy commander of the chief of General Staff, also reportedly ruled out a purge within the TSK on the grounds that that some officers are allegedly linked to Hizmet. He reportedly stressed that there are officers with different ideological backgrounds and that does not necessitate that they leave the TSK as long as they abide by military rules. However, there are no guarantees that there might be purges from within the armed forces that may cite different reasons such as an absence of positions for generals or colonels or for those in lesser senior positions.
I heard from reliable sources close to the military that Gen. Özel may find himself obligated, in the face of pressure from the government, to purge officers and even generals by reassigning them to passive positions or retiring them on vague legal grounds.
Published on Today's Zaman, 03 July 2014, Thursday