Turkey’s Supreme Military Council Meets Over Resignations

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ANKARA, Turkey, Aug. 1 (UPI) — Turkey’s Supreme Military Council began its annual four-day meetings Monday in disarray after the unprecedented mass resignations last week put the country’s new military command structure in question.

The crisis began Friday when chief of the Turkish armed forces, Isik Kosaner, resigned along with the army’s land forces Commander Gen. Erdal Ceylanoglu, air force Commander Gen. Hasan Aksay and naval forces Commander Adm. Esref Ugur Yigit.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul immediately appointed Gendarmerie Forces Commander Necdet Ozel as the acting Chief of Turkish Armed Forces General Staff, the Beyaz Gazete newspaper reported Monday.

Kosaner and his senior commanders quit just hours after a Turkish court charged 22 suspects, including several generals and officers, with carrying out an Internet campaign to undermine the government.

That was just the latest twist in a government investigation into the protracted and ongoing “Sledgehammer” alleged coup plan reportedly presented at an army seminar in 2003. The military maintains the seminar solely consisted of war-gaming exercises.

The government’s prosecutorial dragnet included 17 generals and admirals currently in line for promotion. They have been jailed in the course of the Sledgehammer investigations, with nearly 200 officers altogether being charged with conspiracy.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ozel led the military council meetings that will take place without the land, air, naval and gendarmerie force commanders for the first time.

Council member and commander of war academies Gen. Bilgin Balanli was absent from the meeting following his arrest in May, which left the council with only 11 of the required 16 members.

The resignations represent a prolonged struggle between the Turkish military, which sees itself as the guardian of the republic’s secularist heritage as formulated by the country’s first president, Kemal Ataturk, and the country’s dominant political party, the Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, or commonly known as the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, head by Erdogan.

The AKP won a landslide victory in the 2002 election, winning more than two-thirds of parliamentary seats and has remained in power since.

One of the AKP’s avowed intentions has been to revise the country’s Constitution, dating from 1960 and made into law after the military intervened in politics and overthrew the government.

Over the last decade tensions have risen between Erdogan’s AKP government and the military over the future political direction of Turkey, as many in the military see the AKP as pursuing a covert policy of attempting to Islamize Turkey society, which remains officially secularist under its Kemalist legacy.

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