ANKARA — A failed attempt to overthrow Turkey's Islamist government has exposed the Turkish military to the risk of operational weaknesses and will likely put off most of the country's multibillion-dollar procurement programs, some officials have said.
According to the government, the attempted coup was lead by a network of officers loyal to an Islamic preacher in self-exile in the United States. On July 15, the members of the coup took top military brass hostage, including the chief of the military, Army Gen. Hulusi Akar, and ordered a small fleet of F-16 fighter jets and helicopter gunships to attack rival military posts, police headquarters, the presidential palace and the intelligence agency headquarters. Troops took over the Bosporus bridge and the Istanbul Ataturk Airport. They fired at civilians and police officers loyal to the government. The death toll on July 18 was at 208.
"Unfortunately, all this comes at a time when our ally must fight a multitude of asymmetrical wars," said one NATO diplomat in Ankara. Nearly 10,000 people have been killed in Turkey’s fight against militants insurgent Kurdish and Islamic State militants since last summer, some of who are part of groups that Turkey, the US and the European Union designate as terrorist organizations. Kurdish and Islamic militants have attacked Turkish cities 14 times since then, killing more than 300 and injuring more than 1,000 people.
Turkey said Monday that 103 generals and admirals had been detained for questioning across the country over the failed coup attempt. A total of 41 of the detained, high-ranking soldiers were jailed pending trial. The commander of the 2nd Army, Gen. Adem Huduti, and its executive officer and Malatya Garrison commander, Maj. Gen. Avni Angun, were among the arrested ranking generals. Former Air Force Commander Gen. Akın Ozturk, who has been described as the ringleader of the foiled uprising, was also arrested.
Law enforcement officers initiated an inspection at a southern Turkey air base, a key spot from where the US-based coalition is conducting operations against the Islamic State group's strongholds in Syria. Brig. Gen. Bekir Ercan, the commander of the Incirlik Air Base, was arrested on charges of involvement in the coup attempt.
Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry said it suspended 8,777 officials after the coup attempt. The suspended personnel include 7,899 police officers, 614 gendarmerie officers, 30 provincial governors and 47 district governors.
Turkish special forces personnel guard the entrance to the Ankara Courthouse where a hearing for generals and military personnel involved in Friday's failed coup attempt was taking place July 18, 2016, in Ankara, Turkey.
Photo Credit: Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said that the arrests would continue.
"This is a major earthquake within the military," a senior security official said. "It will take a long time before everything goes back to normal. In the meantime, we will take every measure to make sure there will not be any operational weaknesses."
But the NATO diplomat was not so optimistic. "It is inevitable that there will be operational weaknesses including against ISIL," he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS.
One procurement official said that in the aftermath of the attempted coup, procurement is "nowhere in the military command's priority list."
"I am not sure how soon we'll be able to discuss [procurement] programs with them [the military]," the official said. "But I am sure it will take some time."
One military official with a portfolio of aerospace programs declined to comment on the matter, saying: "This is not time to discuss procurement."
As the attempted coup began to show signs of failure, police and rival troops reciprocated and most pro-coup officers and troops were arrested by the afternoon on July 16. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and government officials claim that the coup attempt was organized by Fethullah Gulen, a powerful Muslim cleric and Erdogan's staunchest political ally until 2013 when the two broke up in a power-sharing struggle. Since then, Gulen has been Erdogan's biggest political nemesis. The president claims those loyal to the cleric have infiltrated the state bureaucracy, including the top ranks of the military.
Ankara has demanded Gulen's extradition from his reclusive headquarters in Pennsylvania, claiming that the cleric runs a terror group that aims to topple Turkey's elected government. Washington has said that it would assess any evidence linking Gulen with the coup attempt or terrorism.