A top NATO commender announced Ankara has recalled half of the 300 Turkish officers.
Since a failed coup in July, Turkey has recalled half of its military officers assigned to commands overseen by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s top commander, officials said Wednesday.
U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, said 150 of the 300 Turkish officers serving in several key military commands of the alliance had been summoned back to Turkey and about half have been replaced.
Turkey’s military chief, Gen, Hulusi Akar, has pledged to refill all the slots in NATO allotted for Turkey, Gen. Scaparrotti said. He and other NATO officials said, however, that many of the new officers have far less experience, raising concerns that they will undermine the alliance’s work.
The 150 recalled officers were assigned to NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Mons, Belgium, Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum in the Netherlands and Allied Joint Force Command Naples in Italy, all of which are staffed with more senior officers.
Their number isn’t known
Thousands of soldiers suspected of involvement in the coup attempt have been arrested, and according to alliance officials, Turkish officers summoned back to Turkey have faced expulsion from the military and the loss of benefits, and some have been jailed. Their number isn’t known.
Some of the recalled officers have refused to return to Turkey and claimed asylum in Belgium, Germany, the U.S. and other countries. The Turkish government has asked its Western allies not to shield suspects.
Turkish officials have accused the arrested soldiers and officers of having links to U.S.-based Turkish imam Fethullah Gulen, whom President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses of masterminding the coup attempt. Mr. Gulen, who is on trial in absentia for plotting to overthrow the government in Turkey, rejects the charges.
During a visit by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to the Turkish capital Ankara in September, Fikri Isik, the defense minister, said the government was reviewing the military in the aftermath of the coup to root out traitors in the ranks. He dismissed suggestions the purges would hurt Turkey’s military capability.
“We will show every effort to make sure that there is minimal impact with regards to our responsibilities and pledges to NATO and our allies in this transition period,” Mr. Isik said.
On Wednesday, a Turkish military official at the armed forces’ headquarters in Ankara said the investigations into alleged coup-plotters were continuing. The general staff, he said, had no immediate comment on the officers recalled from NATO.
Mehmet Fatih Ceylan, Turkey’s ambassador to NATO, said the country will fill the empty slots and had made “a clear commitment” to uphold the rule of law in judicial proceedings.
“Turkey will continue to fulfill her commitments to NATO, including filling the slots,” Mr. Ceylan said Wednesday.
“I have a concern about what happened to the people who were working for us”
In his comments, Gen. Scaparrotti said the officers most effected by the purge of Turkey’s military were top officers.
“Those are ones that have spent a career now and have a great deal of experience, and they’re also very important in the training of subordinate officers,” he told reporters. “So what they’re having to do is move people up to replace those that they’ve pulled out so it has had an impact, and I think it will take some time for them to overcome that.”
The U.S. is discussing with Turkey the possibility of providing new training programs, he said.
The supreme commander said the recalled officers had served NATO well and he had no security concerns about them. His main concern was his shrinking staff and loss of expertise, he said.
Gen. Scaparrotti said he has spoken with Gen. Akar about every 10 days and has raised concerns about the fate of his former staff officers and well-being of their families.
“I have a concern about what happened to the people who were working for us,” he said. “My concern is that they would follow the rule of law and treat their people appropriately.”
Source: The Wall Street Journal