Turkey Appoints New Armed Forces After Top Brass Quits

Turkish President Abdullah Gul approves the appointment of new chiefs for the country's ground forces, navy and air force after four top generals quit due to conflict with Islamist government.

Turkey selected four new generals to lead its armed forces on Thursday in a shake-up which is seen as consolidating civilian control of the military after four top generals quit last week in protest at the jailing of officers in coup conspiracy cases.

General Necdet Ozel, previously head of the paramilitary gendarmerie, was named as new chief of general staff for the second largest armed forces in NATO.

The shock departure last Friday of Ozel's predecessor Isik Kosaner and the heads of the ground forces, navy and air force, brought to the surface years of tension between the secularist military and a prime minister whose party emerged from a banned Islamist party more than a decade ago.

President Abdullah Gul approved the appointment of new chiefs for the country's ground forces, navy and air force, presidential spokesman Ahmet Sever told reporters after the conclusion of a four-day meeting of the Supreme Military Council (YAS).

Isik Kosaner, Turkey - Reuters - 29.7.11

He added that the Chief of General Staff had also been agreed upon, and it now required a cabinet decision to rubber-stamp the appointment.

Earlier on Thursday Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan visited military headquarters to sign off on the promotions.

The generals' resignations have enabled Erdogan to tighten his control over a military force which once had the last word in Turkish politics but saw its powers curbed by Erdogan as he pushed through EU-backed reforms to strengthen democracy.

Since his conservative AK Party came to power in 2002, it has been engaged in a long struggle with a secularist establishment, led by the military and judiciary, that fears the party harbors a secret Islamist agenda.

Only nine out of the usual 14 top generals attended this YAS, which convenes twice yearly.
Alongside the four commanders who walked out last week, a fifth general missing from the council was one of some 250 officers now jailed on charges linked to various alleged anti-government plots dating back to 2003.

Under the alleged "Sledgehammer" plot, dating back to a 2003 military seminar, around 200 officers are charged with planning to destabilize the government by bombing mosques and triggering conflict with neighboring Greece.

Officers say evidence against them has been fabricated and that allegations of a coup plot arose from a mere war games exercise.

Erdogan's AK Party won 50 percent of the vote in a parliamentary election in June, and is now seeking to reach a consensus with the main secular and ethnic Kurdish opposition parties to replace a constitution that was framed in the aftermath of a 1980 military coup.

But the ructions in the military are unlikely to help reduce a polarization in Turkish politics.
Presidential spokesman Sezer also said a decision was taken at the YAS to extend by one year the duties of 14 generals currently jailed as part of the conspiracy investigations.
There had been speculation that they would be forced into retirement.