Turkey's top military leaders step down en masse

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Turkey's top military leaders step down en masse

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In the latest sign of a rift with the government, Turkey’s top military leadership has stepped down.

Armed Forces Chief, General Isik Kosaner, has reportedly said he is quitting in protest at officers being jailed in various court cases. The commanders of the ground, naval and air forces are also going.

Dozens of serving or retired senior military figures have been detained amid investigations into alleged plots to overthrow the government.

Turkey’s military has staged several coups in the past and traditionally defends the secular state. Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party is rooted in political Islam.

We asked our correspondent in Turkey, Bora Bayraktar, to explain the background.

“We have two issues in the forefront: first Turkey’s classic problem, the struggle between the army and the civilian administration. And the other is growing criticism of the army and its future, functions and ability to defeat PKK Kurdish rebels,” he said.

“The army always has problems with civilian governments. In 2002, when the AK Party came to power, it was already a part of a political movement in which the army had intervened several times. That is why the AK Party and the army never got along.

“As the AKP headed more into the civilian sphere, it also limited the army’s power.

“Following the deaths of 14 soldiers in recent days, generals have been the focus of criticism. Amid all of this, the government is trying to switch to a professional army. So I suppose a new military leadership will be chosen to allow this revolution to take place.”