Turkish general who sparked controversy in presidential election removed from command in Syria

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This handout picture taken and released by the Turkish Presidential Press Service on April 1, 2018 in Hatay shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wearing a military camouflage uniform (L) shaking hands with Turkish Second Army Commander, Ismail Metin Temel (R) as Chief of the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces, Hulusi Akar (C) looks on during Erdogan's visit to border units in Turkey's Hatay province. / AFP PHOTO / TURKISH PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE / KAYHAN OZER /

Lt. Gen. İsmail Metin Temel, commander of Turkish troops in Afrin, Syria, who recently sparked a political controversy when he applauded a speech by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was appointed to a new position by a presidential decree, Sputnik Turkish service reported on Monday.

Erdoğan’s decree appointed Temel to the Supervision and Assessment Bureau of the General Staff – a rather unexpected move since back in June, Metin had been the subject of a fierce debate between Erdoğan and then-presidential candidate Muharrem İnce, who was competing in the presidential election of June 24.

The reassignment also raised eyebrows as it came on the heels of reports that Turkey is about to launch a new offensive to the east of the Euphrates River in Syria.

Temel’s applause of a speech by Erdoğan that included political criticism against his electoral rival İnce had led to a war of words between the two politicians.

İnce had reacted to the general by vowing to strip him of his epaulettes, while Erdoğan had fired back in his defense and affirmed that he enjoyed a special relationship with him due to Operation Olive Branch in northern Syria, which Temel had commanded.

Müyesser Yıldız, a columnist for the OdaTV news website, commented on the issue, claiming that Temel’s reappointment was the result of a disagreement among senior members of the military as regards the awarding of medals to soldiers who had excelled in the fight against terrorism.

Temel’s suggestions, according to Yıldız, were ignored by the high command, and the issue culminated in a souring of relations when Temel walked out of a ceremony at which senior military members were present including Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Güler.

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