The Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has announced the appointment of Gen. Metin Gürak as the new chief of general staff, local media reported on Thursday.
The promotion of Gürak, who previously served as commander of the 2nd Army, was decided Thursday during a three-hour meeting at the presidential complex. The top post has been vacant since Gen. Yaşar Güler, who had been in office since 2018, was appointed defense minister in early June.
The council also finalized the new command structure of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) during the meeting, promoting 32 generals and admirals to a higher rank and 63 colonels to the rank of general or admiral.
Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Selçuk Bayraktaroğlu was appointed land forces commander, while Combat Air Force Commander Gen. Ziya Cemal Kadıoğlu was appointed air forces commander.
The decisions will be effective Aug. 30.
Gürak’s name had been mentioned in statements made by former special operations officer İbrahim Şahin, who was arrested as part of an investigation into the clandestine Ergenekon organization in 2009.
The Turkish public for the first time witnessed the mass arrest of high-ranking military officers in the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer coup plot trials between 2008 and 2016, with the defendants accused of having attempted to overthrow the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
According to a report published by Radikal newspaper in February 2009, Şahin claimed in a statement to the prosecutor that he had been working to establish a unit called “S-1,” consisting of 150 to 300 military and police personnel, under the orders of Brig. Gen. Gürak, who was director of the General Staff Communications Department at the time.
Furthermore, Gürak was at the center of allegations regarding the delayed mobilization of the military to take part in search and rescue efforts in the wake of the powerful earthquakes that occurred in February, as he was commander of the stationed in the earthquake-stricken region.
Two devastating earthquakes hit 11 Turkish provinces in the country’s south and southeast on Feb. 6, killing more than 50,000 people and leaving millions homeless.
Following the earthquakes, President Erdoğan and his ruling AKP were accused of poor performance in coordinating search and rescue efforts, mainly failing to mobilize enough people and a lack of coordination among the teams.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was among those who said the government failed to mobilize the military in time to take part in the search and rescue efforts in the wake of the quakes.
Prior to an attempted coup on July 15, 2016, the YAŞ consisted of the prime minister, the minister of defense, the chief of general staff, force commanders, the commander general of the gendarmerie and the other four-star generals and admirals of the TSK. Since decisions in the YAŞ were taken by majority vote, the candidates’ professional careers and their abilities were more decisive than political will in the advancement of generals and admirals.
The coup attempt changed the structure of the YAŞ, with four-star generals and admirals, besides the chief of general staff and force commanders, excluded from membership. The vice president, minister of finance and treasury, minister of foreign affairs, minister of justice, minister of the interior and minister of education were appointed as new members. With this arrangement, the power in the promotion and appointment of admirals and generals passed from the military bureaucracy to Erdoğan’s AKP government.
In the promotions and appointments of recent years, the ability to work in line with Erdoğan’s government and to fulfill the mandates given without questioning them was decisive. Experts say that this situation has damaged the institutional structure of the TSK.