This post has been updated three times.
Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Işık Koşaner requested his retirement Friday afternoon, along with Turkey’s Land, Sea and Air Force commanders, leaving NATO’s second biggest army temporarily leaderless.
This shocking event comes right after a meeting between the military chiefs, PM Erdogan and President Gul. It is not known what was said. The Supreme Military Council, or YAŞ, is to meet on Monday. At that time, promotion decisions are made. Forty-three generals are available for promotion and of these 14 expected to be promoted at this year’s YAŞ meeting. The government apparently wished for those generals to retire, something that was not countenanced by the General Staff, so the officers can neither be promoted nor retire, leading to this crisis.
Adding fuel to the fire, it was rumored that the Aegean Forces Commander Nusret Taşdeler was to be arrested before the YAŞ meeting as part of the larger Eregenekon trial (in his case as part of an alleged conspiracy by the military to use the Internet to create social chaos and overthrow the government). Two hundred officers are in jail, 42 of them serving generals. Some have resigned their posts because they were not promoted last year. (Those involved in a court case may not be promoted. The AKP apparently has indicated its desire that they retire, i.e. are effectively removed from their posts, which the General Staff refused to do.) The YAŞ meeting theoretically can take place without the missing commanders, or it may be postponed. It is chaired by the prime minister, who now has the pick of his litter for new officers. (click here, in Turkish, here in English)
Hours after the country’s entire military echelon, including the Chief of the General Staff, resigned from their posts in a reaction to civilian rulers, the government appointed Gendarmerie Forces Commander Gen. Necdet Özel late Friday as the land forces commander, in a move to end the crisis as swiftly as possible. Özel is likely to become the country’s top soldier over the weekend as well… (click here for more)
Gen. Koşaner gave a farewell speech to his troops on Friday in which he said that many members of the armed forces had been arrested and were being tried on charges not backed by hard evidence. This has caused sorrow, anxiety, and resentment. He pointed out that “250 officers, 173 active duty and 77 retired,.. have been deprived of their liberty.” He doesn’t agree with jurists who argue that these arrests were carried out according to civilized judicial standards and according to values of legality, justice and morality. Despite there having been no decision in their cases, 14 admirals and 58 colonels continue to be deprived of their liberty. “The armed forces has been made to appear to be a criminal gang.” He said he was resigning because he was no longer able to carry out his duty to protect the rights of the members of the armed forces. (click here, in Turkish. Thanks for the link, Emre.)
The New York Times says it better here.
Monday: And here’s the lineup of attendees at today’s YAŞ meeting and the scorecards of the potential candidates for promotion. Click here.