Erdoğan appoints Gen. Yaşar Güler as new chief of general staff

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) shake hands with Gen. Yasar Guler (2nd R) at Presidential Complex, in Ankara, Turkey on July 29, 2016. Kayhan Ozer / Anadolu Agency

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday appointed Turkish Land Forces Commander Gen. Yaşar Güler as the new chief of general staff with a new presidential decree published in the Official Gazette, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

After taking the oath as the first president under a new system of governance that was approved in a referendum in 2017, President Erdoğan on Monday appointed Hulusi Akar, the chief of general staff, as defense minister.

According to the report, Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Ümit Dündar was named the new commander of the Turkish Land Forces and Lt. Gen. Metin Gürak was appointed as the new deputy chief of general staff by the new presidential decree.

A new presidential decree published in the Official Gazette early Tuesday has granted power to President Erdoğan to make changes in the top brass of the military.

Under the new decree, the president will decide on the promotion of top officers, including colonels, brigadier generals, rear admirals, generals and admirals, in the Turkish military.

The appointment of military officers will be made every year on Victory Day, Aug. 30, but this date could also be changed by the president. The time in office for the chief of general staff will now be four years.

A total of 3,077 personnel from the Turkish Land Forces Command, 1,126 from the Naval Forces, 1,949 from the Turkish Air Force Command and 649 from the Gendarmerie Command were dismissed with the last state of emergency decree on Sunday.

Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government had dismissed 24,977 military members including 150 generals, 4,630 officers, 2,167 noncommissioned officers, 1,210 specialized sergeants, 411 civil servants and workers, and 16,409 cadets following the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 over alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement.

The government has been at the center of criticism for turning the Turkish armed forces into a political Islamist military in line with the wishes of President Erdoğan.

A military officer candidate was reportedly asked questions about the Quran and the anti-government Gezi protests of 2013 during an interview in October 2017.

In June, an imam-hatip, or religious high school, in İzmir province promised its graduates preference in enrollment at military and police academies.

Some find the Turkish government’s efforts to Islamicize the Turkish army alarming and warn that NATO risks having a member army filled with extremists.

In February of last year Henri Barkey, director of the Middle East Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center, said that many generals purged by the Turkish government are pro-NATO and pro-American, saying this could create a shift in Turkey-NATO relations.

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