Broken Wings

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Turkish Air Force has been direly impacted by the recent purge and the effects were felt very quickly in the battlefield. Despite having close to 300 fighters in the inventory and operating in a rather small operational arena, Turkey resorted asking US for air support for the ground forces. The well-publicized “joint” operations with Russia has been detrimental rather than instrumental, as recent suspiciously timed “friendly fire” incident during an air strike claimed the lives of 3 Turkish soldiers living 9 wounded.

The self-evident question is “Why is Turkish Air Forces not able to carry her own weight and provide the ground support required?” Certainly it is not the lack of material, as it has more fighters currently than any other Air Force in Europe. The answer lies within the human factor, as Turkey has lost more than half of its pilots due to ongoing purge, resulting in abysmal operational capability.

A REAL CONCERN FOR TURKEY

After the latest published decree with force of law regarding measures to be taken under the State of Emergency, the number of the Turkish Air Force pilots purged since 15th July 2016 has exceeded 550.

Measures taken under the State of Emergency[1] Pilots Purged from Turkish Air Force
Decree-Law NO. 668 of 27 July 2016 284
Decree-Law NO. 670 of 17 August 2016 8
Decree-Law NO. 675 of 29 October 2016 9
Decree-Law NO. 677 of 22 November 2016 90
Decree-Law NO. 679 of 06 January 2017 32
MOD Administrative decrees of  September/October 2016 128
TOTAL 551

During a press interview on 15 August 2016, government spokesmen have declared that pilot/seat ratio has fallen to 0.8 after decree 668[2]. Since then, 267 more pilots have been purged, which brings down the pilot/seat ratio to a disastrous number of 0.4[3]. Also, it is important to point out that purge is still continuing and also some of the remaining pilots are suspended and waiting for an indeterminate future.

In a desperation effort, Turkish government doubled the pilot salaries[4] with a decree and asked hundreds of pilots that had served mandatory service time and had left for the “Big White Aircraft – aka Civilian Airlines” to come back to service. The Turkish government had hoped and Ministry of Defence announced that hundreds of pilots would return “back home” from civilian airline companies. However results were heartbreaking and only 12 came back[5] which interestingly was paraded as a big success.

On the other hand, side effects of doubling pilot salaries are yet to surface. Even before the doubling act, large salary gap between pilots and other specialties were a source of discontent amongst the latter. After the dust settles, no doubt the “doubled” discontent will cause friction among ranks of Air Force.

The government sponsored media constantly tries to downplay the situation. In a recent news,[6] it is announced that the pilot shortage is decreasing significantly, as 225 new pilots were “ready to fly”. A closer look into this claim reveals that they have been talking about the number of pilot candidates planned for flight school, which will take years before they could be combat ready.

Even before the purge Turkish Air Force was struggling with manning the cockpits. In 2012, a decrease in mandatory service time from 15 years to 10 years was introduced. This change cost Air Force extra, as 53 additional pilots left service on average each year since 2012[7]. An average of 100 pilots graduate from Flight School in the Air Force per year and approximately 100 pilots leave Turkish Air Force to work at the commercial airlines each year, however the unexpected increase of departures from 100 to 153 already had a big impact for Turkish Air Force. Concern was so severe that the issue was brought up at both Council of Ministers and Turkish Grand National Assembly several times[8]. The pre-purge pilot shortages combined with additional 550 pilots purged since, sets and undeniably grim picture.

Turkish Air Force Commander General Abidin ÜNAL at the inauguration ceremony for 153rd SQ on November 2016. Small number of pilots for a squadron providing initial training for F-16

As the operations picks up in southern border, with old flames being rekindled in the west, the immediate threat that needs to be remedied is the number of combat ready pilots and the number of experienced pilots who plays a key role in planning and execution of operations[9]. Keeping in mind that the flight school has the capacity to train average 100 pilots a year at a maximum rate, pilot shortage will continue to be a major concern at least for the next 10 years[10]. However, most of the pilots that left during both pre-purge and purge periods were experienced instructor pilots, which brings up the question whether the pilot production rate can even catch up to the previous  levels. Combined with increased operational tempo in the south, Air Force will have to make a decision on where they will employ the small number of experienced pilots. Most likely scenario is, immediate concerns on the operational front will override the mid-long term concerns, which will deepen the hole, Air Force is already in.

Another temporary solution created by the new decree is to give a second chance to the officers washed out from pilot training[11] years ago and are serving in different specialties such as intelligence officer, infantry officer etc. “Internal sourcing” approach will have the benefit of shortening the transition period compared to a civilian recruit, however fixing one hole by pulling cork from another hole is hardly a wise approach for saving the ship. Specialties such as air space controllers, targeteers have long training periods. The role of non-flyer specialties in combat effectiveness should not be overlooked. Pilot-centric mentality is a thing of the past, as operations gets more and more complicated and increased tempo requires more from the ground crews. Another problem with “Internal Sourcing” approach is the fact that it will undeniably lead to decreased standards in pilot training. Those candidates formerly washed-out due to failing to reach the standards will not suddenly find a newfound talent, and instructors will be forced to accept sub-standard candidates due to pressure from upper echelons to increase pilot output.

A REAL CONCERN FOR NATO

Expertise and experience lost following the military pilot purge is hard to regain since the remaining few is being used and abused in the dangerously high operational tempo in Euphrates Shield. The requirements for the air support in Operation Euphrates Shield is growing, as lack of adequate close air support has already cost 54 tanks/armored vehicles. The tremendous loss of fighter pilots restricts the Turkish Air Force operational tempo which in turn caused Turkey to urge US/European Allies to support operation in Al Bab. In fact, so dire is the situation that Turkey resorted asking “New Strategic Ally – Russian Air Force” for close air support marking a highly unusual military partnership between a NATO member and Moscow[12].

The purge of combat pilots will not just produce consequences for Turkish Armed Forces but also to NATO’s both peacetime and combat establishment as well. Turkey has a significant number of officer posts in NATO’s command structure of which considerable of them are pilots[13]. In an interview on early December, SACEUR General Curtis Scaparrotti expressed the effect of empty Turkish posts as “I had talented, capable people here, and I am taking a degradation of my staff for the skill, the expertise and the work they produced”. It will be very difficult for Turkey to fill these posts with experienced and qualified cadre as Turkey will no doubt choose to utilize those scarce assets in operations or training.

General Scaparotti’s concern is likely not limited to command structure. Turkish contribution to NATO’s strike power is also under question. NATO must keep in mind this serious critical capability shortfall since Turkey has more fighter jets than they could realistically fly and sustain in combat. This poses a grave vulnerability for the southern flank of NATO as Turkey is one of the largest providers of fighter aircraft in NATO.

In light of recent strategic shift towards Russia, whether Turkey would be willing to contribute to a major scale enduring NATO ops in the region, both in aircraft and basing, is the real troubling question amidst Erdogan’s post-purge “Strategic Adventurism”

 

[1] Decress with force of law can be found at http://www.resmigazete.gov.tr/default.aspx.

[2] “Numan Kurtulmuş: Ayrılanlar dönecek”, 15 August 2016, http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/numan-kurtulmus-ayrilanlar-donecek-40195302.

[3] Turkey has approximately 600 total Aircraft.

[4] Nobody should expect that doubling pilot salaries to keep the moral and motivation of pilots high while they are surrounded by continuous purge atmosphere, in which no one is safe.

[5] “Basın Odası/ Hv.K.K.lığından Haberler”, https://www.hvkk.tsk.tr/en-us/.

[6] http://www.haberturk.com/gundem/haber/1362829-tsknin-pilot-acigi-azaliyor

[7] The extra bleeding of pilots should normally end in 2017.

[8] “Hava Kuvvetlerini bu yasa vurdu”, 12 March 2015, http://www.sozcu.com.tr/2015/gundem/hava-kuvvetlerini-bu-yasa-vurdu-769765/, “100 pilot istifa etti”, 14 March 2013, http://www.sozcu.com.tr/2013/gundem/100-pilot-istifa-etti-247496/

[9] Turkish Air Force depends on the pilots to a great extend for operational and tactical planning. So a portion of already scanty pilot cadre will have to be used for planning.

[10] Ten years asssessment could also be found at the analysis at https://warontherocks.com/2016/09/the-post-coup-purge-of-turkeys-air-force/

[11] Due to either medical reasons or elimination from flight school.

[12] Friendly fire incidents on 24 November 2016 (Although Officially culprit is not yet found) and 09 February 2017 which left more than 10 Turkish soldier dead and more than 20 wounded should force Turkey to consider the effectiveness of the Russian cooperation.

[13] Turkish Planner posts in AIRCOM, CAOCs and TUR JFAC are mostly manned by pilots.

A Short Analysis and Some Reflections on Turkey’s Incursion to Syria.

 

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A short analysis and some reflections on the Turkish Incursion To Syria (Operation Euphrates’s Shield)

Is there an exit strategy for Turkey other than total failure?

 It is not surprising that Turkish Syrian foreign policy is currently stuck in the town of El-Bab, name meaning “The Gate”. El-Bab is historically defined as a gate towards Aleppo. That also indicates the intent of the Operation Euphrates Shield.  Erdogan’s Sunni sectarian/political ambitions started off this operation on the wrong foot.  It was prepared hastily in the middle of the biggest purge Turkish Armed Forces had seen. Experienced cadre that had been resisting to adventurous ambitions of the regime, was being replaced with new opportunists looking for glory.

During the first stage of the operation, Jerablus was captured without intense fighting and was presented as a great military success by mouth-piece media. Later on, a captured ISIS member would reveal that ISIS did not fight back at this first stage, but simply blended into the population by cutting their beards. The media glory did not last long, disaster struck at Al-Bab where Free Syrian Army had already been failing against ISIS stronghold. By this time the affiliated Free Syrian Army (FSA) had already turned out to be a failure against ISIS strongholds in the vicinity of Al-Bab. Turkish Special Forces captured villages and turned them over to FSA, who abandoned the villages by the next morning. Even the start of the operation for Al-Bab was postponed several times because the FSA was not ready.

There are many causes for the stall Turkish forces are experiencing in Al-Bab. The first apparent factor seems to be lack of intelligence. The ongoing operation seems to be conducted without adequate intelligence on the operational area. The lack of targeting info could be the reason why artillery shelling was preferred. Needless to say, this non-precision approach brings the risk of fratricide and civilian casualties with it. Already, some sources have claimed that hundreds of civilians died because of TUR artillery shelling and air attacks. And also one of the important things that needs to be highlighted here is the fact that Turkish military is short of air to ground guided missiles, that is why Turkish officials made an official meeting with South Korea to receive PGM (precision guided missile) kits as an urgent operational requirement. Based on this shortage it is already known that Turkish jets are mostly dropping classic, not-guided bombs to Jerablus and Al-Bab.

Based on dozens of media reports by human rights organizations[1] there have been hundreds of civilian casualties as a result of the Turkish artillery’s imprecise shelling and the Air Force’s use of unguided (dumb) bombs. This could be because the stockpile of Precision Guided Munitions (PGM) is extremely low.

Another intelligence/planning failure was the lack of appreciation for the types of weapons enemy has.  Strategic planners (if many are left after the massive purge!) at Turkish General Staff should have known that, ISIS had access to sophisticated anti tank guided missiles (ATGM) weapons and had been using them in the field extensively, and should have planned accordingly. Also related is the terrain factor. Using the relatively permissive flat terrain, ISIS was able to move freely and quickly which enabled them to hunt tanks and other armored carriers with ease. Timing of the operation is not in concert with the choice of Armor either. Armor needs large logistics support which can be a nightmare in winter. The disconcerted planning and execution of the operation has led to appalling results. Credible sources stated that, contrary to public statements by the Turkish General Staff, 54 tanks have been destroyed / damaged so far. Losses are great yet gains are tiny. Despite the overwhelming conventional superiority enjoyed, even the logistics lines of ISIS, used for reinforcements and evacuations, are not cut yet.

C2 (command and control) of the operation is a perplexing matter by itself. One of the shocking details of this ongoing operation (from credible senior sources) is that there is NO Joint Strategic Operational Plan (OPLAN). Hence there is no joint understanding of the whole campaign. Normally, there must be an official political directive to military planners stating the objectives (desired end state) for the use of force.  For an operation of this magnitude an operational plan (OPLAN) at joint level is a must in order to determine the lines of operation and align the lines of effort. The OPLAN is the cornerstone for the synchronization of efforts and proper execution of the operation. However, what I know (from credible resources) that the plan is just a few power point slides with arrows and timings (at the scale of months).  According to this so called CONOPS (Concept of Operations); 3 months were envisaged for control of Jarablus, likewise 3 months for Al-Bab, another 3 for Mumbic and just another 3 months for RAKKA!!! (when I first heard it, I thought it was a joke; reflecting back how many months have been spent for Kirkuk by the Us-led coalition forces).

Official reports indicate that the 3 star head of Special Forces (LtGen. Aksakallı, a staunch supporter of Erdogan) is commanding at operational level with this HQ in Silopi / Turkey. I personally know this small HQ, it is not joint, it was built just to coordinate the support of Turkish units in Iraq with Pashmerga. Considering the amount of armor units used, a Special Forces commander with no experience in armor warfare, is not a smart choice. Destroyed tanks in the battle testify to what should have been common sense. I have also heard that LtGen. Aksakallı has sent a report about the failure so far accusing Land Forces Command, according to his report he is accusing armoured and infantry units which is under command of Land Forces Command. As clearly seen at this  report one of the basic principles of warfare, unit of command is a waste for this operation.

Rather than acknowledging incompetence, Erdogan regime tried to save face by claiming “Lack of US help to Turkish troops”. Prime minister went as far as claiming that “The others are not doing anything, we are the only ones fighting”. So what was the help they were talking about? Forgetting the fact that US neither agreed with the plan nor promised any help regarding Al-Bab, why was Turkey asking for US help in the first place?

It is obvious that mentioned “help” from US would come from the air, whether being strike or intelligence. Turkish Air Force was used to be paraded as the largest in Europe. With more than 250 fighters, it should be easily able to provide any kind of air support needed. In fact, Turkish General Staff claim 1233 guided munitions strike on 1141 IS targets, yet fails to show any significant effect on enemy will or ability to fight. Either, Air force is operating extremely ineffectively, or these numbers are suspicious. Turkish Air Force is no stranger to this type of scenario, it had major doctrinal changes in fight against PKK towards 2009 which resulted in success between 2010-2011. (Thanks!! to National Intelligence Agency for wrong targets in Uludere and tying hands of military during “Peace process”  as Erdogan admitted later on, PKK was able to regroup and restrategize, nulling all the gains). So assuming those numbers are right, what is the source of inefficiency? Could it be that, majority of experienced planners, pilots and intel officers are in jail now? Even some who are not in jail are hard pressed, like Pilots in Diyarbakir who report to police everyday and go fly missions on the same day? Morale of whatever good personnel left is down the drain, as they see personnel getting arrested everyday and wondering when is their turn?

Erdogan has not been shy in expressing his desire of toppling Assad or “Praying in Mosque of Amawi ” in Damascus. After getting rid of the military elite that resisted involvement in Syria, Turkish Armed Forces entered Syria with no clear objective of associated plan. “Town hopping” approach has failed in the first real resistance. Al-Bab operation carries all the marks of politically fueled greedy adventurism, carried out by a crippled force under incompetent leadership. Will the “desire for glory” continue in the wake of upcoming presidential referendum? A military victory or defeat could make all the difference.

[1] http://breakingenergy.com/2017/01/12/the-battle-for-al-bab-is-bringing-u-s-turkish-tensions-to-a-head/

 

 

The only aim of this Commission is to prevent or at least delay ECHR decisions for human rights breaches in Turkey.

Turkish government decided to establish a super commission “Commission for Examininig/Screening State of Emergency Acts” even superior to Constitutional Court by Decree 685.

Mission of this commission will be examinig dismissal of government servants, officers, academics, students and closure of institutions.

This so called Impartial Commission will be consist of 7 members, 5 of which will be chosen by Prime Minister and Minister of Justice. This Urgent Commission members will be chosen in one month, case acceptence date will be declared in 6 months.

This Super Commission will solve nearly 135.000 cases in 2 years, which means 267 cases for each day, one case in every 2 minutes.

Decisions of the Comission could be appealed to the administative court, then district admininstrative court, then Counsil of State, then Constitutional Court.

This commission is against Turkish Constitution Art. 35 “Extraordinary tribunals with jurisdiction that would in effect remove a person from the jurisdiction of his legally designated court shall not be established.”

This commission is against Turkish Constitution Art. 35 and  European Convention on Human Rights Art. 6 and Art. 13.

Turkish Constitution Art. 35 “Extraordinary tribunals with jurisdiction that would in effect remove a person from the jurisdiction of his legally designated court shall not be established.”

ECHR Art. 6 “In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law”

ECHR Art. 13 “Everyone whose rights and freedoms as set forth in this Convention are violated shall have an effective remedy before a national authority notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity.”

Only aim of this commission is to prevent or at least delay ECHR compensation decisions for human rights breaches.

Symptoms of the Deviation of Turkish Armed Forces from West

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Symptoms of the Deviation of Turkish Armed Forces from West

Over the last year, political deviation of Turkish government from the West to the East is widely reported by Western media. Now it is obvious that the axis of Turkey is deviating from western allies to Russia. However, this could not be accepted as a usual policy change due to national interests. Keeping in mind the ground-zero level relations after downed Russian Jet on Turkish border, speed of the deviation would be seen better.  As being a balancing actor in Foreign Policy, Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) put the brakes on disruptive policies of the politicians by advising international responsibilities and security risks. Therefore, contrary to expectations, Turkey’s drastic and rapid deviation to Russia could not be possible without a military consent.

Russia has started first out of area mission in Syria since the end of the Cold War and that is a symbol of Russian military’s return back to Cold War norms. Presence of Russian mobile[1] A2/AD (anti-access/area denial) assets increased the threat perception of Allied countries from Russia’s “near abroad” into East Mediterranean and Black Sea. The main concern was how to conduct joint entry operations and neutralise A2/AD threat in those areas. Turkey’s geographic position and the presence of NATO-integrated TAF assets in the area were very critical to balance the threat.

Turkey was mostly affected from the growing threat in its neighbouring areas since 2008, but NATO’s Article 5 protection was the guarantor of its defence. However, Turkey’s threat perception has changed from external[2]  to “internal security” after the 15 July coup attempt. Shift in threat perception supplemented with suspicions over Western support to coup attempt and thus leads to Erdogan-Putin rapprochement.

How did TAF consent received?

As a result of coup attempt happened on 15 July 149 Generals (45.8%) together around 60 % (or more) of the flag officers and general staff officers of TAF are purged.  Which is not dissimilar to NATO posts, 509 (%71) officer’s tour have been terminated in various NATO and Military Attaché positions. A list of expelled generals and staff officers show most were officers who gave priority to Atlantic ties and held strong pro-NATO stances. NATO officers/generals, whose common denominators are being western minded, egalitarian, secular, politically non-biased, honest and successful, purged from their positions.

Just after coup attempt, all generals, officers even NCO’s who were not classified as being affiliated with pro-government movements, and cannot be controlled, were expelled or detained. Pro-government groups in the TAF are; Perincek Group (those with Eurasian perspective), SADAT group (radical political Islamists, who allegedly ran training camps for  ISIS  in  Turkey  in  addition  to smuggling weapons and personnel to Syria) and opportunistic  generals/officers  (those,  who  were  basically exploiting the situation by  establishing  close  relations  with  the  governing  party).

Purge of Western-minded officers will lead to the reorganisation of TAF, increase in the power of Eurasianist officers in the TAF by appointing to critical positions, and deviation from western alliance. Infiltration of Perincek group into the TAF had begun in 1970s when leftist movements during the Cold War were at their height. As being the current dominant group in TAF, Eurasianists have made a temporary alliance with the SADAT followers in TAF with the principle of “enemy of my enemy is my friend”.  It is very clear that Eurasianist are not associated with Erdogan mindset and this leads to some critical and even threatening announcements to the Erdogan’s policies. Having been established solely for short-term interests, this alliance destined to fail due to different motivations and agendas of the groups. What is not known is who controls Euroasianists’ agenda? Is it Russia or Erdogan? Whoever it is, it seems that both possibility are advantageous for Russia.

As expected, reorganization of the TAF began with clash of afore-mentioned groups to grab desired positions on the way of controlling TAF. As mentioned by Michael Rubin[3], after the purge of almost all Western-minded officers and generals, the power struggles are now more visible and parties are preparing for big battle by recruiting and arming supporters. It is known that the military personnel who are associated with Sadat group have been assigned to various Human Resources Departments of the TAF. That has been done intentionally to balance Eurasianist group in favour of Erdogan and Erdogan called retired SADAT members per task with an emergency decree. It is reported by media channels that thousands of weapons and military equipment are un-located since 15 July, which can be only explained by two groups’ militarization against each other. Whoever wins, that will lead to instability and chaos in Turkey, which will have impacts on European security structure. Turmoil in Turkey would also prevail over Europe. Europe may not be able to stay away of it as they did in Syria Crisis.

15 July 2016 coup attempt can be seen as a milestone towards enhancement of Turkish-Russian military relations.  Main transformation projects in TAF had been carried by purged Western-minded officers and generals. Purge of those personnel halted 30 years long of military transformation towards NATO and has led to start of a new era of “isolation from West” and “biat” (to swear allegiance) culture.

 What are the symptoms of the Deviation of TAF?

Purge of Western-minded officers enhanced the coordination between Russia and Turkey in the military level. First top-level meeting happened in Ankara on 15 September. The meeting was a symbol of the military leg of the normalisation process, which has started first on the political level. One of the most important outcomes of the talks is that both top soldiers agree that regional problems can only be resolved through joint initiatives of regional countries as Turkish military sources described the meeting as “fruitful.”

Military coordination has resulted in some outcomes in the field. The parties agreed to form a joint military and intelligence mechanism to coordinate their activities in the Middle East, including Syria. With this mechanism, joint operations against ISIS could be started. In this case Turkey would be able to make cross-border interventions against PYD forces in North Syria to prevent completion of Kurdish corridor. Turkey’s policy moves against PYD in Syria caused politic tensions with US and weakened military coordination. It is assessed that Turkey’s disagreements with US over PYD has been exploited by Russia in her advantage.

Military coordination has continued with the two sides agreed on intelligence sharing in support of Turkish unilateral Operation Euphrates Shield on 24 October. That was an indicator of Turkey’s lack of military intelligence in the Northern Syria during the time of operation. Military Intelligence Collection assets had been handed over to “National Intelligence Service” (MIT) as part of transformation process. After that development Turkish General Staff has been dependent on MIT intelligence for to understand the crisis close to the Turkish border. MIT’s inability to meet the expectations of military necessities is evident in poor planning and ineffective targeting during the Operation Euphrates Shield during which more than 40 Turkish personnel killed in action till today.

Russian officials said Turkey quietly joined the pool on intelligence sharing created by Russia, Syria, Iraq and Iran. This is also in line with Turkish MoD statement suggesting the operation was coordinated with the agreement of Russian, Iranian and even Syrian officials through “indirect communication channels. That is a clear example of TAF officials are in daily contact with Russia, Iranian and even Syrian officials. However, Turkey’s intelligence sharing with non-NATO countries created concerns over the safety of NATO intelligence network. Turkey’s intelligence sharing with non-NATO entities is possible and cannot be controlled at the moment.

On January 12 2017, Russian and Turkish military officials signed a memorandum on combat flight safety during missions – and agreed to coordinate airstrikes against terrorists in Syria. Al-Bab is an obvious area for these efforts. With that Turkish-Russian military cooperation will be observed in the air and on the ground. As a result of that cooperation Russian and Turkish aircrafts has reported to start joint operation together in the vicinity of Bab where US UAVs has conducted airstrikes in the previous week. The symbolic meaning UAVs and the Russian jets presence in the area clearly indicate that US-Turkish partnership in Syria is weakening which is replaced by Russia.

Incirlik is also a very important base for US in the power balance of the region due to; US nuclear weapons in it, it’s key role in US and allied operations in the Middle East and many other military strategic factors. Having Russians on it’s side, Turkey is trying to change US policies in Syria and Iraq by using closure of Incirlik Base card. On the other hand, since the beginning of Syrian Crisis, Russia is accumulating its military power in the region. Russia sees Incirlik Base as an obstacle before its dominance in the region. As a result of current deviation from Western world, Erdogan regime and its media outlets intentionally keeping the closure of Incirlik Base on the agenda.

Military rapprochement with Russia come along with cooperation in the field of defence industry. As a result of this, despite NATO summit declaration in Warsaw (June 2016) calling for freezing military contacts of its members with Russia, formal and informal negotiations on Air and Missile Defence Systems and many other Russian arms already started. That decreased Turkey Foreign Policy’s credibility. Possible delivery of S-400 systems to Turkey will likely improve Russian A2/AD posture in the region, which will also threaten allied countries military presence in the area. That will also enable for Russia to track the air picture of allied assets. By the way, it should also be noted that a similar purge of Western-minded, politically unbiased personnel happened at “Under-secretariat for Defence Industries”, which is the institution responsible for modernization projects of the TAF.

Security Implications for Europe

Turkish-Russian military partnership is against the founding principle of the NATO, which is primarily established for collective defence. Moreover, during the times when Russia is challenging the European Security with illegal interventions, ie in Ukraine, Turkish-Russian military partnership is a symbol of how Erdogan is irrespectfull to international law and responsibilities. Turkey’s bilateral military partnership with Russia will likely have negative consequences for her.

If the Turkish and Russian partnership remains limited to Syria, that won’t likely harm Turkey’s military and diplomatic relations in the short term with NATO. However, this partnership will be benefited by Russia-only by filling the place of US military foothold (ie Bab and Incirlik) and makes Turkish military dependent on its military power. This option is likely as long as two countries have mutual interests in Syria and Middle East. When interests clash over Syria, Turkey will find itself isolated even from West and Russia.

Eurasianist officers/generals who are replaced the purged officers in NATO posts already started to criticize NATO policies and strategies in Turkey and not hesitate to announce pro-Russian views on NATO headquarters. If the military partnership with Russia enhances out of Syria, that will lock the decision making process of the Alliance; will be seen as against to the founding principle of the Alliance and will put Alliance documentation and intelligence at risk. These will lead to weakening of Alliance. In this situation, it is highly likely that NATO will suspend military relations with Turkey. Diplomatic relations with Turkey will be maintained in order to keep the coherence of the Alliance but suspect to change with a sudden and irrational foreign policy outcome. West would not want to lose Turkey but a problematic country against Western policies should not be tolerable anymore.

Conclusion

As TAF has been an important member of the Western security bloc and a strong member of the NATO, there is no doubt that dismissal of western, minded officers/generals begin to have major effects on TAF’s strategic identity and organizational culture. Due to the prominent role of TAF in Turkish political structure and in NATO, these effects have reflections in both.  We begin to see the military symptoms of this deviation in TAF and will continue to see more symptoms in the upcoming days.

[1] Frigate, submarine and aircraft loaded anti-access and area denial systems.

[2] Russia; as seen in previous NATO summits Turkey asking for NATO support in order to neutralise Russian threat

[3]Michael Rubin: Turkey is Headed for a Bloodbath, http://europe.newsweek.com/michael-rubin-turkey-headed-bloodbath-515787?utm_source=social&utm_medium=whatsapp&utm_campaign=/michael-rubin-turkey-headed-bloodbath-515787%3frx=eu

TURKEY’S SLIDE INTO DICTATORSHIP: What is the destiny of Turkey? Hopeless future or bright horizons?

TURKEY’S SLIDE INTO DICTATORSHIP:

What is the destiny of Turkey? Hopeless future or bright horizons?

* Democracy, as “government by and for the people”, is indispensable for Turkey.[1] Though, the term democracy per se doesn’t provide a magic key to open all the doors, particularly those locked by power-holders for many years. Even more, key aspects of democracy have been weakened at the expense of empowering “the one” more and more. Election system lacks transparency and full justice. Interest groups are under a huge pression. Legislative power addresses Erdogan’s own interests, than those of public. Executive-legislative balance of power no longer exists. Media strictly follows Erdogan’s orders, giving no floor to different views. Latest polls reveal that AKP[2] has still more than 50% [3] albeit all things seem dire.

* To change the course towards dictatorship and autocratic rule, any military solution is not a solution at all. Whatever the solution is, it has to be long-lasting as it also has to take Turkey to Western leauge. Although, historically, “to be or not to be” struggle seems to be against to “outsiders”, in fact, major and more fervent discussions has taken place internally in order to determine the direction, define the orientation, and draw the destiny of the State. It was such a struggle that Turks had to witness even four coup d’état (1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997),[4] exploiting the gaps in civilian governance, destroying gains in building a sound democratic culture, and taking the country each time 10 years back. Accordingly, during this phase, due to the massive purge so far, Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) should prepare itself mentally and philosophically in order to remedy as quickly as possible from the biggest brain drain the history has ever seen.

* In this context, internal factors has little or no say to discrown Erdogan. Rather, international community which is (or should be) unrest with Erdogan’s unstabilizing and dissociating policies must show up and call a spade a spade without falling into Erdogan’s trap of refugiee bluffing. Two major drawbacks seem to purposive: claims of corruption (linked with Zarrab case) and support to ISIS. To say, the Moscow report [5]about Turkey’s weapon supply to ISIS can be kept on the UNSC agenda by the Western Powers. Although Turkey hasn’t approved the Rome Statute yet, Erdogan’s crimes might be investigated when referred to the ICC Prosecutor by the UNSC pursuant to a resolution adopted under chapter VII of the UN charter. Thus, Russia’s obsolete attempt can be revived by the other members of UNSC, notably the Western ones. What Erdogan does (and did) in Syria corresponds to the main crimes defined by ICC: crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crime of aggression.

* Claims of corruption needs to be investigated by international organizations in terms of money laundering, smuggling etc. Foreign governments should also incline their eyes to these allegations since Erdogan’s international crimes are of such a capacity that can hit every target regardless of international law and humanitarian values. To sum up, Erdogan has turned out a threat more dangerous for the Western World (but also regional states) than, ironically, Turkish society.[6]

* Turkey, in terms of various aspects, has been subject of a historical walk from Central Asia towards Europe. This lasting trip has left differentmarks not only on the era and places that witnessed the movement, but also on thepeople who kept interaction, in some way, with the Turks. Being inheritor of Ottoman Empire, Turkey has always sought ways, throughout the walk, to preserve its power to fight, charm to impress, and ability to shape. History, culture and religion have appeared as means to put all these aims into practice under “soft power” umbrella, whereas military power has acted, when necessary (i.e. 1950 Korea, 1974 Cyprus), as a key factor so as to remind “friends and foes” Turkey’s presence. But now, all those parameters are completely out of question in that none can suffice to discrown Erdogan though it fights against all three.

OVERVIEW OF POST-ERDOGAN ERA:

MULTIWRECK REMOVAL, AND SO WHAT?

* Polarization within the society will stay as a big challenge even in post-Erdogan era. Turkey, with its high-voltage faultlines, is vulnerable to ethnic or religious-based conflicts, which got worse under the AKP governments for 15 years. Those who will be in charge after Erdogan (or AKP) will have to face with deepened problems related to Kurds and religious extremists. The former directly refers to basic rights stem from being a humankind (ie. Linguistic rights), whereas the latter has deep roots in mindset degeneration and lack of target-specific, high quality training. Erdogan and AKP has always used Kurds’ demands as a trump card intended for his Machiavelist goals, such as winning elections, instead of struggling to find permanent solutions thereby resting Kurds helpless vis-á-vis PKK. Eventually, the AKP governments failed to recognize the fact that security-focused approach on its own promise nothing less than futility.

* Extremism appears as another challenge pending to be dealth with. Fed by Erdogan’s discriminating manner towards those who are not Sunnis, religious extremism have gained ground more than ever before. The reason lying behind of Erdogan’s policy has its origin in Mawdudi’s sayings, who is among the masterminds of political Islam:

 “If… leaders and rulers be pious and devoted to God, the entire society will certainly follow the course of righteousness and devotion to the Almighty. Even the wicked will be constrained to do good… But if the reins of (the) state are in the hands of agnostics and evil men, the entire fabric will be permeated by the spirit of disobedience to God, tyranny and immorality… God’s earth will be inundated by tyranny and oppression.” [7]

Therefore, even in post-Erdogan era, extremist mindset will still be surviving so long as it finds followers, and succeds to exploit faultlines within the society. Tolerance, respect, and understanding will have to be fostered by the help of various tools at every levels, from family to state affairs.

* There exists a consensus among supporters of democracy on post-Erdogan agenda, though prioritization may differ. One solution can be applying to Pareto analysis. According to Pareto, as known well, 80% of the problems are caused by 20%, which points out, in our case, necessity to start with TAF, the one covers only 20% of state affairs whereas creating the bulk of the problems. It is foreseen that multiwreck removal will be longlasting at every level, and the Caterpillars needed will be those who were purged from every level (HOWs specified below)

* It is not a cautious approach to anticipate a quick mindset shift of the public. Yet, to clean the idea of Political Islam whose roots plunge deep into the past appears as crucial one, which means the people will no longer be swallowed by the politicians exploiting religious terminology to attract more and more voters. It may need to put into effect some legislative and Constitutional regulations as a barrier in front of such attempts (see Figure). The worst scenario is overlapping of rise of political Islam (yes, again!) and regional instability. It merits to draw attention: it is not about Erdogan or AKP itself. On the other hand, the relationship between Turkey’s political Islam and regional instability stands for how those two feed each other in many aspects.

* Russia factor will be weakened once Erdogan, to say Political Islam, regime collapses. Russia has never ended up his historical dreams, and used all tools, range from diplomacy to military, in order to realize them. Erdogan’s Russia “sympathy” arises from helplessness instead of being a strategic option. Russia will stay a neighbour state, but no more, in post-Erdogan era provided political Islam also weakens. Otherwise, paramiliter groups such as SADAT will continue to gain ground in a context of power vacuum till all falls into place.

* Turkey’s modernization (Westernization) efforts are all but 300 years old. What makes this journey so tottering is being in a continuum in terms of perpetual reforms the aim of which is getting narrower to the West. However, the EU, as a national goal, has played facilitator role for Turkish policy makers to complete several institutional reforms. Those to be crowned in post-Erdogan era must stick to that path. Defining the West as the best destination for Turkey’s longwinded marche doesn’t necessarily mean excluding the rest of the world, notably Middle East, Mediterranean and Central Asia. Rather, the review maintains that only when Turkey turns its face towards the West can it preserve its power to fight (NATO), charm to impress (EU), and ability to shape (culture, history and religion).

BIG BUBBLES FOR TAF IN POST-ERDOGAN ERA:

RECONSTRUCTION, RECONCILIATION, REORIENTATION

* Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) has lost its military effectiveness during this period of time, which has disastrous impacts upon operational efficiency as a powerful military for regional stabilisation. Then, first and foremost, TAF must return to war practices from coup protection practices.[8] Under the pretext of 15th July, TAF has adopted the latter which gave way to selection against merit in promotion system, heavily restriction of trainings and exercises, centralized and convoluted command, as a result poor tactical proficiency. This will the first step of reconstruction, a part of full-scale military reform including professionalism.[9]

* Due the fact that military effectiveness should be considered within a hierarchical dimension, it would be no wise to anticipate good news from the battlefield without empowering political and strategic effectiveness. One of the most controversial issues will be on civil-military relations, and civilian supremacy must remain as a vital goal no matter what the recent history says.[10] As a purposive tool, a (more) democratic constitution will make it easier for the military to justify its position vis-a-vis civilian control.

* Reconciliation must be both with the historical and cultural values and the people, including those who were purged (once upon a time!).[11] TAF has suffered a great deal from neglecting historical values inherited from its ancestry.[12] Regrettably, it is as hard as starting from scratch. But at the end, the goal must be get TAF somewhere that each member thinks, reads, questions and produces.[13]

* The most difficult one, reorientation, should also cover the main missions of TAF even to the extent that it can even be discussed the military’s perception of its role in Turkish society as “guardians” of the secular regime. Self-confident and open-minded staff can reorient TAF towards the main goal: security of the state. Before that, promotion and training systems will be in need of comprehensive revision to have self-confident and open-minded personal, backbone of reconstruction period. To conclude, overall military organization should be restructred to keep away from, as Norman Dixon’s say[14], military incompetence in two ways: “directly, by forcing their members to act in a fashion that is not always conducive to military success, and indirectly, by attracting, selecting and promoting a minority of people with particular defects of intellect and personality.” The former refers to what we experienced in the past, while the latter addresses to what we witness today.

FROM HERE TO THERE:

THE PROBABLE COURSE OF EVENTS

* In the midterm it seems likely that Turkish public will find itself in a turmoil fed by economic crisis, regional instability, and outrageous political revenge between political Islamists (AKP) and extremist nationalists (Dogu Perincek’s side). Thus, Turkey’s near future is subject to four driving forces along with global trends: social fragility / marginalization (including tendency towards religious extremism), economic sitation, Syria conflict, and mutual positions of today’s so-called allies (AKP and Perincek).

* Social fragility deepens by the help of economic crisis, and faultlines awaken by discrimination policies against Kurds, and Alevis. Due to economic stagflation and currency fluctuations, a great deal of enterprises go bankrupt thereby multiplying unemployment rate. On the other hand, AKP-backed upper class keeps making money by large-scale tenders and projects, which worsens injustice in income distribution and creates widespread unrest even among AKP supporters. Further, institutions begin to fail since they lose their independency and fall under the influence of political desires. Early outcomes of the purge at every level and the biggest brain drain the history ever seen can show its face, fort the first time, with an economic collapse triggering all other driving forces. The trade deficit deterioretes as export to European Union hits bottom by force of credit rating agencies’ negative assessments.

* The AKP government continous to turn up pressure over Kurds through sword of damocles, judicial investigations, and assassinations. Leading Kurds, notably HDP deputies and mayors, are arrested and detained with the aim of provoking Kurd population against the State. Being still away from officially recognized as “place of worship” by the Government, Alevi’s “cemevleri” are targeted by extremists aiming to trigger a sectarian conflict betwen Sunnis and Alevis. In case it fails, the next phase (or simultenaously with the former) is to assassinate key political, religious, or cultural figures of Kurds and Alevis, to land the crimes on other side (nationalists for Kurds, Sunnis for Alevis), and to lay the groundwork for a civil war. Erdogan and AKP sees it as a last resort for obfuscation crimes they committed for years. In accordance with this purpose, extremists (ISIS militants and SADAT members) whose actions were deliberately overlooked at the expense of letting them strenghten are mobilised for the common goal. The European Commission issues a declaration blaming Erdogan for discrimination policies against those under attack of extremists, and calling for immediate action to stop violence throughout the country. In parallel, France submits a report to United Nations Security Counsil, accompanied with proofs of Erdogan’s relations with the extremists and his role in widespread violence.

* Meanwhile, human right violations in all over the country escalate. Prisons and detention centers are overcrowded with all but real criminals. Poorly educated and politicized police forces don’t hesitate to torture and maltreat to those in custody, while judges and prosecuters continue using law as a weapon against opponents. Human Rights Watch and UN Watch condemns human rights violations in Turkey, asking Turkish authorities and democratic World to take immediate actions. HRW also criticises International Criminals Court for lack of investigations into violence actions ongoing.

* Lacking a realistic guidance and sound military plans, Turkish Armed Forces loses not only effectiveness but also its way in Syria, which in turn causes to withdrawal under the same pretext of removal the tomb of Suleyman Shah. In fact, that the costs of the operation reaches a untolerable point is the main reason hidden by pro-Erdogan media outlets. Erdogan discharges Hulusi Akar, Chief of the General Staff, along with the commanders of Land, Air and Sea Forces, who played their parts featly during 15th July coup-fiction. Moreover, Erdogan pins responsibility for the failure in Operation Euphrates Shield on these four-star generals, claiming that his political guidance is misinterpreted and corrupted improperly by military planners, notably command staff.

* Another tension between Erdogan and Perincek escalates when it comes to decision over command staff assignment. The former greedily wants to see “partisan” and pledger generals around him, while the latter sees it as a do or die. Meanwhile, Turkish Armed Forces gradually loses its unit cohesion, technical skills, and morale under the command of poorly qualified generals who remind Arab counterparts leading their armies to the catastrophe during and after Six Day War in late 1960s. Each side uses every means possible to get down the other on his knees. Perincek dredges up Erdogan’s crimes and corruptions, while Erdogan starts another purge against pro-Perincek soldiers and officials. Foreign intelligence services take part in this fight by leaking Erdogan’s voice and hidden camera records to the press. Determined not to lose its strength, Perincek provokes the public to dethrone Erdogan under the name of “National Consensus Coalition”. In the meantime, international organizations decide to investigate the Erdogan-linked proofs released by the press, which tightens the circle for Erdogan.

* Being afraid of overseas trip due to the investigations ongoing, Erdogan follows the developments in his 1100-room Presendial palace. Social tension comes to a boil owing to economic crisis, aggression towards Alevis and Kurds, intolerance for opponants, widespread arrests and torture, heavy cost of Syria conflict, reescalating terrorist attacks of PKK, and extremist nationalists’ provocations. Erdogan supporters that begin to fear that things are out of control search ways to flee abroad. Being the first time in its history, more than 1 million furious, disappointed and desperate people walk towards the Presidential Palace. Though Erdogan orders security forces to fire on demonstrators and shed bloods of hundreds, he fails to hinder the collapse of neither the Palace, nor dictatorship itself.

* Boeing CH-47 Chinook waits for the passengers with rotors turning……..

[1] One could argue that Turkey has evolved from democracy to dictatorship, but it doesn’t change the fact that Turkey has (and will have) no better way to be able to survive in its region.

[2] It goes without saying that AKP means Erdogan.

[3] http://www.internethaber.com/yarin-secim-olsa-son-ankette-o-parti-ucusa-gecti-1739354h.htm

[4] 15 July was intentionally ruled out, because I call it as “coup-fiction” rather than a real attempt. The reasons are out of scope of this paper.

[5] http://yournewswire.com/un-report-turkey-is-main-supplier-of-weapons-to-isis/

[6] For sure, it depends on expiration date of Erdogan.

[7] Princeton Readings in Islamist Thought: Texts and Contexts from al-Banna to Bin Ladin, eds. Roxanne L. Euben and Muhammed Qasim Zaman (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009), p.82.

[8] For detailed definitions, see Caitlin Talmadge, The Dictator’s Army: Battlefield Effectiveness in Authoritarian Regimes (New York: Cornell University Press, 2015, pp.13-18)

[9] I call it “reform”, because I have no doubt that it will be a lasting and painful phase.

[10] Narcis Serra sums up well what I mean: “(…) the government must determine and apply security policy and military policy, as well as embed the armed forces into the administration of the state as just one more branch of the latter and not as an institution that dialogues with the other Powers in the state.” Narcis Serra, The Military Transition: Democratic Reform of the Armed Forces (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p.239.

[11] Not only people, but also institutions such as War College.

[12] For more to know the advantages the Ottomans Military enjoyed, see Princeton Readings in Islamist Thought: Texts and Contexts from al-Banna to Bin Ladin, eds. Roxanne L. Euben and Muhammed Qasim Zaman (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009), pp.120-121.

[13] To understand better, it will suffice to compare two official journals of two Armed Forces: JFQ of the United States, and Silahlı Kuvvetler Dergisi of TAF.

[14] Norman Dixon, On the Psychology of Military Incompetence (London: Pimlico, 1976), p.169.

Eren Erdem’s (member of TUR Parliament, Main Opposition Party, CHP) Speech on ISIL at Turkish Parliament, 29 June 2016

eren-erdem

Eren Erdem is main opposition party (CHP) member of the Turkish Parliament. He delivered a  speech (29 Jube 2016) on the support provided to ISIL by the government. During his speech he provided clear evidence of such support and requested to activate a Committee to investigate the issue. He was later accused of being a traitor by pro Erdogan Media.