Sunday, July 31, 2016

Turkey to Shut Military Academies As It Targets Armed Forces For ‘Cleansing’
Western allies rattled by scale of crackdown on more than 60,000 people after failed coup in Turkey

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan he will shut the country’s military academies. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Saturday 30 July 2016 21.18 EDT

Turkey will shut its military academies and put the armed forces under the command of the defence minister, Fikri Isik, president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday in a move designed to bring the military under tighter government control after a failed coup.

Isik told broadcaster NTV the shake-up in the military was not yet over, adding that military academies would now be a target of “cleansing”.

The changes, some of which Erdogan said would likely be announced in the government’s official gazette by Sunday, come after more than 1,700 military personnel were dishonourably discharged this week for their role in the abortive 15-16 July putsch.

Erdogan, who narrowly escaped capture and possible death on the night of the coup, said the military, Nato’s second-biggest, needed “fresh blood“. The dishonourable discharges included around 40% of Turkey’s admirals and generals.

Turkey accuses US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen of orchestrating the coup, in which a faction of the military commandeered tanks, helicopters and fighter jets and attempted to topple the government. Erdogan has said 237 people were killed and more than 2,100 wounded.

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the US for years, denies the charge and has condemned the coup. So far, more than 60,000 people in the military, judiciary, civil service and schools have been either detained, removed or suspended over suspected links with Gulen.

Turkey’s western allies condemned the attempted putsch, but have been rattled by the scale of the resulting crackdown.

“Our armed forces will be much stronger with the latest decree we are preparing. Our force commanders will report to the defence minister,” Erdogan said in an interview on Saturday with A Haber, a private broadcaster.

“Military schools will be shut down ... We will establish a national defence university.“

He also said he wanted the national intelligence agency and the chief of general staff, the most senior military officer, to report directly to the presidency, moves that would require a constitutional change and therefore the backing of opposition parties.

Both the general staff and the intelligence agency now report to the prime minister’s office. Putting them under the president’s overall direction is in line with Erdogan’s push for a new constitution centred on a strong executive presidency.

Erdogan also said that a total of 10,137 people have been formally arrested following the coup.

Analysis Erdoğan v the Gülenists: from political allies to Turkey's bitter rivals
The Turkish president has followed the attempted coup with a crackdown on judges, soldiers and even teachers, saying supporters of the the exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen are entrenched in positions of power.

The shake-up comes as Turkey’s military – long seen as the guardians of the secular republic – is already stretched by violence in the mainly Kurdish southeast, and Isis attacks on its border with Syria.

The army killed 35 Kurdish militants after they attempted to storm a base in the southeastern Hakkari province early on Saturday, military officials said.

Erdogan said he planned to thin the numbers of the gendarmerie security forces widely used in the fight against Kurdish militants in the southeast, although he said they would become more effective with better weaponry and he promised to continue the fight against insurgents.

Separately, the head of the pro-Kurdish opposition said the government’s chance to revive a wrecked peace process with Kurdish rebels has been missed as Erdogan taps nationalist sentiment to consolidate support.

State-run Anadolu Agency reported that 758 soldiers were released on the recommendation of prosecutors after giving testimony, and the move was agreed by a judge.

Another 231 soldiers remain in custody, it said.

Erdogan has said it was “shameful” that western countries showed more interest in the fate of the plotters than in standing with a fellow Nato member.

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