The decision is made during the meeting of the Supreme Military Council (YAS) which convenes biannually to discuss the military’s agenda and the promotions in the military’s upper echelons. According to Hürriyet Daily News, some of the arrested generals and admirals have been awaiting promotion since their promotions were previously put on hold in 2011′s council. The Council’s statement said that their one-year waiting period had expired and they had to be retired due to lack of open positions.
However, it is widely accepted that the retiring of the arrested generals and admirals was a politically-motivated decision by the AKP to finalize the reshaping of the Turkish military’s leadership. Most analysts argue that these people should have been allowed to retain their active duty status until a verdict in their cases was reached. The YAS decision, therefore, contradicts with the “innocent until proven guilty” principle, taking away the rights of tens of officers before the courts made their final rulings.
In addition, the so-called coup trials, which are used as justification for the joint decision by the AKP and President Abdullah Gül to retire these people, have many irregularities. Independent forensic experts discovered that a significant portion of the evidence used against the suspects is forged or their authenticity is questionable, making the arrests of hundreds of generals, admirals and other officers problematic. Nevertheless, with the retiring of arrested generals and admirals, the AKP eliminated all of its presumed opponents in the military and those who have allegedly planned a coup against its rule.
Moreover, some in Turkey believe that the decision marked the final chapter in the competition between the “Atlanticist” and the “Eurasianist” blocks in the country’s military leadership. As their names suggest, Atlanticists argue that Turkey must establish closer ties with the United States (and NATO, EU) as they believe the continued cooperation and deeper security-military relations with the United States would best serve Turkey‘s national interests. Contrary to what Atlanticists believe, Eurasianists argue that Turkey needs to realign its policies to emphasize Russia and China in its foreign and military policies as they believe, in the post-Cold War, Washington’s foreign policy objectives contradict with Turkey‘s interests.
While Eurasianists are considered to be more organized compared to Atlanticists; neither group truly operated outside the military chain of command. However, Eurasianists came under scrutiny as many prominent names associated with the so-called Eurasianists are arrested as a part of the Ergenekon trials. The “Ergenekon” trials, which began in 2008, has turned into a massive legal undertaking consisting of several cases. More than 250 people – including generals, politicians, academics, rights activists, journalists, and even students – are being investigated on charges that they belong to a clandestine terror network intent on overthrowing the AKP government.
Furthermore, the YAS decision also reiterated the concerns over the state of Turkish military and the country’s preparedness for war at a time when uncertainty in Syria threatens Turkey’s borders. I wrote about this issue last May, you can click here to reach my article about the state of Turkish military.