Several pro-government media outlets criticized a NATO commander on Wednesday for displaying concern for what they called “coup plotters” following his expression of anxiety over a purge of officers from the Turkish military, claiming that it is weakening the alliance with NATO.
US Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO supreme allied commander in Europe, told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday that he has concerns about what happened to the officers who were working for NATO. Following a failed coup on July 15, as part of an unprecedented purge, Turkey had recalled half of its 300 officers assigned to NATO, a number of whom reportedly applied for asylum in Europe. In November NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said some members of the Turkish military who were posted to NATO had requested asylum.
The NATO commander dismissed the coup plotting charges against these Turkish officers and said he had raised the issue with the chief of Turkey’s General Staff.
Following his reaction to the purge, a number of online news outlets as well as social media users in Turkey argued that the NATO commander was concerned about coup plotters, in an apparent distortion of the general’s remarks. Scaparrotti pointed out that the removal of NATO staff by Turkey weakened the alliance. Turkey has been a NATO member since 1952.
In a similar comment earlier, a Turkish general, Mehmet Yalınalp, who was sacked following the failed coup while serving as the head of NATO’s air command strategy division in Germany, had said the government’s purge of top commanders and pilots in the Turkish army was causing deep, long-term damage to the second-biggest army in NATO.
Speaking during an interview with Reuters published on Nov. 24, Yalınalp said he was fired from his position a week after the failed coup and is among hundreds of Turkish NATO officers to have been dismissed, some of whom have requested asylum in Europe.