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March 23, 2023

Turkey appoints military heads after shock resignations

This was the first time a civilian government was able to decide who commands the powerful armed forces in the country.

ANKARA – Turkish President Abdullah Gul has approved the appointment of the country’s four top military leaders, after the resignation of their predecessors last week, BBC News reported. As expected, army chief Gen Necdet Ozel is promoted to chief of general staff.

This is the first time a civilian government has been able to decide who commands the powerful armed forces. The four generals resigned over the arrest of officers accused of plotting to undermine the government.

Gen Isik Kosaner and the chiefs of the army, navy and air force quit just hours after a court charged 22 suspects, including several generals and officers. The new appointments come at the end of a four-day promotions meeting chaired by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan used the resignations to promote commanders more likely to accept ci­vi­lian supremacy, though all are career officers with unimpeachable records of loyalty. Gen Ozel had been widely tip­ped for swift elevation to chief of the general staff in place of Gen Kosaner, after his appointment as army chief last week. Tradition dicta­tes that only the head of the army can take over the top job.

Gen Hayri Kivrikoglu is the new land forces commander, Adm Emin Murat Bilgel takes over as naval commander and Gen Mehmet Erten becomes air force commander, media reports say. They will all take up their posts once formally approved by the cabinet.

Several generals named in the investigations were passed over. A total of 250 officers have been implicated in the alleged plots, among them 14 generals and admirals.

The case that prompted last week’s military resignations is the latest element of the protracted “Sledgeham­mer” controversy – a coup plan allegedly presented at an army seminar in 2003. It reportedly involved plans to bomb mosques and provoke tensions with Greece, in order to spark political chaos and justify a military takeover. Twenty-eight servicemen will go on trial next month.

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