Turkish military has lost some 70 percent of its flag officers since 2016

Turkish President Erdogan hails graduation ceremony for cadets


Abdullah Bozkurt


A secret Turkish military document obtained by Nordic Monitor has revealed that nearly two-thirds of all generals and admirals in NATO’s second largest army have been discharged from the armed forces since 2016, sounding alarm bells about the well-being of the command structure.

The document, signed by Maj. Abdurrahman Yetimakman, a member of the Administrative Investigation Commission, shows that the thinning in the flag officer ranks is far worse than was reported by government officials, who have only addressed the number of purged and/or jailed officers. According to the document, 217 generals, amounting 67 percent of all flag officers in the Turkish military, were out as of December 7, 2016. Of these, 150 were dismissed and 50 retired.

Nordic Monitor has learned that many of those who retired were forced to do so by the government in order to avoid the purge and imprisonment on false charges of membership in a terrorist group or plotting a coup against the government. The face-saving measure was often brokered by middlemen in the military who convinced the government to pursue the retirement option instead of a purge. The practice has continued since 2016. For example, seven generals and admirals were asked to retire in August 2017, reportedly over fears that they might be subject to prosecution because of family members who were under investigation. In addition to the forced retirements, 17 flag officers decided to resign from the military under pressure exerted by the government.


On December 18, 2018 Turkish Defense Minister Hukusi Akar told lawmakers in parliament that 150 generals and admirals had been purged from the military, indicating that the number of purges had not changed in the two years since the report was issued, although the purge of officers in the lower ranks and the retirement of generals has continued since then.

The breakdown according to military service branches shows the dismissals, retirements and resignations took the heaviest toll on the Land Forces with the ouster of 133 generals. The Air Forces followed with 49 generals and the Navy with 35 admirals.

The document also indicated that 157 generals and admirals were under arrest at the time the report was prepared.

It listed eight generals and admirals as being at large. These are officers who were forced to live in exile and seek asylum over fears of unjustified imprisonment if they ever return to Turkey. Their names as listed in the document are Maj. Gen. M. Zeki Ugurlu, Brig. Gens. M. Nail Yiğit, Numan Yediyıldız, Ali Kalyoncu, M. Zeki Kıralp and Mehmet Yalınalp, and Rear Adms. Ayhan Bay and A. Suat Aktürk.


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