Turkey will shut down its military academies and put the armed forces under the command of the defense minister, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday in a move designed to bring the military under tighter government control after a failed coup.
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 dishonorably discharged this week for their role in the abortive July 15-16 putsch.
Erdogan, who narrowly escaped capture and possible death on the night of the coup, told Reuters in an interview last week that the military, NATO’s second-biggest, needed “fresh blood”. The dishonorable discharges included around 40 percent of Turkey’s admirals and generals.
Turkey accuses U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen of orchestrating the putsch, 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 United States 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 defense 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 defense 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 would be in line with Erdogan’s push for a new constitution centered on a strong executive presidency.
Erdogan also said that a total of 10,137 people have been formally arrested following the coup. (Courtesy Reuters)