In an unprecedented purge of flag officers from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), the government of Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan specifically targeted generals and admirals who served abroad at critical NATO posts as well as liaison officers and attachés at diplomatic missions in ally nations, secret documents have revealed.
According to the classified documents that listed the names of purged and/or jailed generals and admirals, serving in NATO missions or posts in NATO countries was sufficient reason to red flag senior commanders for abrupt dismissal without any military, administrative or judicial investigation and later subject them to a witch-hunt prosecution.
The documents confirm the hidden agenda of the Erdoğan government in getting rid of pro-NATO commanders from the alliance’s second largest army in terms of manpower. Some 70 percent of all flag officers have been either dismissed, jailed or forced into retirement since 2016 irrespective of their alleged involvement in a 2016 failed coup bid.
Just to name a few, Gen. İdris Aksoy was flagged because he had twice served abroad, once at Allied Joint Force Command (JFC) Brunssum, the Netherlands, one of three NATO operational level commands in NATO Allied Command Operations, between 2007 and 2009, and then at Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) headquarters in Rheindahlen, Germany, between 2000 and 2003. Gen. Savaş Beyribey, who also served at JFC Brunsson, was among those who were purged.
Gen. Ali Suat Aktürk was profiled because his record shows he had served as the Turkish military representative (TMR) at NATO headquarters in Brussels twice from 2006 to 2008. Gen. Cemal Akyıldız shared the same fate because he was also part of the TMR in Brussels between 2008 and 2011. Others whose resume shows that they had been assigned to TMR in Brussels in the past were listed as Ihsan Bakar, Hasan Dogan, Sati Bahadır Köse, Mustafa Kurutmaz, Fikri Özgür, Fatih Celalettin Sağır, Ali Salnur, Salih Sevil and Mustafa Sözer. In addition to the TMR, Turkish generals such as Atilla Darendeli, who served in various positions at NATO allied command operations Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), and Oğuz Karaman, who served at the International Military Staff (IMS), the advisory body of NATO’s Military Committee, were also purged and/or jailed.
The generals who served in Washington, D.C., were also listed among those purged. Fethi Alpay served two tours as the military attaché in Washington between 2006 and 2009 and later between 2011 and 2013. İrfan Arabacı was the naval attaché at the Turkish Embassy in Washington between 2005 and 2008. Ahmet Çural was stationed in the US as an exchange officer for two years between 2000 and 2002, while Mehmet Şükrü Eken served as a military attaché liaison officer between 2004 and 2006. Hasan Hüseyin Demirarslan, a military attaché between 2007 and 2009, was dismissed as well.
Turkish generals who were deployed to NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT) headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, were profiled, according to the documents. Generals Mehmet Nuri Başol, Yaşar Çamur, Mustafa Serdar Sevgili, Sevil Salih, Sinan Sürer, Alpaslan Çetin, Nejat Atilla Demirhan, Hakan Eser and Mustafa Zeki Uğurlu were in the past in various positions at the headquarters.
Those who happened to be stationed in Italy, where NATO’s Allied Maritime Command Naples (MC Naples) is located, were targeted by the Erdoğan government as well. Gen. Ayhan Bay was there for a two-year assignment between 2011 and 2013, while his predecessor, Yasar Çamur, served there from 2009 to 2011. Both were purged and/or jailed in Turkey. Others who were dismissed because they were deployed to Italy to serve at the NATO mission in Naples are Ünsal Coşkun, Himmet Taner Çengel, Serdar Ahmet Gündoğdu, Ahmet Hakan Guneş, Yıldırım Güvenç, Cengiz Karacabey, Tezcan Kızılelma, Kemal Mutlum, Gökhan Polat, Suat Murat Semiz, Aydemir Taşçı and Numan Yediyıldız.
The Erdoğan government did not forget those generals who served at NATO’s Air Headquarters at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, either. İshak Dayıoğlu, who was posted there between 2005 and 2008, was purged. Gen. Hakan Evrim who was at the headquarters between 2012 and 2014, was dismissed and jailed. Several more generals who were assigned to either a NATO position in Germany or attached to a Turkish embassy military attaché section were among the purged. For example, Gen. Serdar Gülbaş, who was with the NATO Airborne Early Warning (NAEW) Force Command in Germany between 2001 and 2004, was removed from the Turkish military. His successor, Gen. Deniz Kartepe, who served at the same post until 2007, also shared the same fate as Gülbaş.
Turkish generals Erdal Öztürk and Ali Riza Çağlar, who both served at NATO’s General Land Component Command headquarters in Madrid; Gen. Ali Murat Dede, who was assigned to Joint Force Command Lisbon; Gen. Hakan Eser, who was deployed as part of NATO’s South-Eastern Europe Brigade (SEEBRIG) in Larissa, Greece; and another general who worked at NATO’s Joint Warfare Centre (JWC) in Norway were among those who were dismissed and/or jailed in Turkey.
The secret documents lay bare the troubling transformation taking place in the Turkish military under the watch of the Erdoğan government. Those who were purged were replaced by Islamists and neo-nationalists who are bent on undermining the NATO military alliance. With new military assignments in NATO positions or at Turkish embassies abroad, pro-Russian and pro-Iranian officers have already started doing the bidding of President Erdoğan from within the alliance network. That should set off alarm bells for the security and safety of the NATO alliance.
The four-page secret document listing purged NATO generals and admirals with a cover letter from the General Staff is posted below: