ANKARA — A massive purge among government servants in the aftermath of a failed coup in Turkey on July 15 is feared to have weakened Turkey's security apparatus.
After the failed putsch, the Turkish government moved quickly to arrest more than 13,000 people and fired over 50,000 government employees.
The purge includes 157 of the 358 generals and admirals in the Turkish armed forces. That makes 44 percent of all generals and admirals. As part of the purge in the military, the government also dismissed 1,099 of an overall 32,189 officers in three service branches. That makes 3.4 percent of all non-flag officers in the military command.
"As you can see, there is bigger damage in the top ranks," said one military officer. "We are doing our best in order to make sure we do not suffer operational vulnerabilities.
The government also appointed colonels to 24 brigades across the country. Those brigades normally are commanded by brigadier generals, and they mostly make up Turkey's elite commando forces.
On July 15, a fraction within the military ranks attempted to overthrow Turkey's Islamist government. The illegal group fired at special police units, the intelligence headquarters and the gates of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's palace. A military special-operations unit planned to capture Erdogan along with Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and some other ministers. They also took hostage Gen. Hulusi Akar, chief of the military general staff, along with the commanders of air, naval, land and gendarmerie forces.
The attempt quickly failed largely due to popular resistance and because most officers within the military ranks refused to support the coup plotters. More than 250 people died in clashes and nearly 2,000 were injured.
The Turkish government claims that the coup had been orchestrated by Fetullah Gulen, a reclusive Islamic cleric based in Pennsylvania. Gulen's followers, believed to have infiltrated the state bureaucracy and military, ended their political alliance with Erdogan in 2013 after a bitter power-sharing struggle between the two groups.
The purge in the armed forces comes at a time when Turkey fights a multitude of asymmetrical wars against Kurdish insurgents inside and outside of Turkey, and against the radical fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria.
"This is a serious challenge for the Turkish military," said Sami Atalan, head of the C4Defence group in Istanbul. "A vigorous, careful restructuring is necessary … and it has to be done quickly."
Any restructuring could also cause modifications in the procurement bureaucracy and influence ongoing programs, officials and analysts say.
"In line with the developments, it will be rational to expect more civilian control over the programs," said one procurement official. "This will be part of a new set of rules defining the civilian-military relations."
Verda Ozer, an analyst, wrote that "the armed forces must be under the control of the government unconditionally and without any uncertainty."
An Ankara-based defense specialist said on condition on anonymity: "Any restructuring under the [post-coup attempt] circumstances may severely curb the generals' authority over [procurement] programs. It is likely that the only critical military role in procurement will be advising the government in shaping shopping lists."
Some of the multibillion-dollar programs awaiting decisions include the indigenous fighter jet, four new corvettes, a third-generation main battle tank, drones, air and anti-missile defense systems, helicopters, satellites and new submarines.