PM seizes chance to pick trusted military leaders

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The Independent Online

Turkey's civilian leaders prepared to use an unprecedented opportunity this week to choose generals they trust after the top commanders of all four military branches resigned in protest over the detention of comrades facing coup conspiracy charges.

The Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, convened the Supreme Military Council as scheduled yesterday despite the presence of only nine of the 14 generals who would normally attend the meeting to decide key promotions in Nato's second-largest armed forces. The meeting will run for four days.

Long-running strains between the secularist military and the ruling conservative AK Party, which has Islamist roots, boiled over on Friday when the Chief of General Staff Isik Kosaner, along with the army, navy and air force commanders, took early retirement.

The fifth general missing from yesterday's meeting was one of 250 officers now jailed on charges linked to various alleged anti-government plots dating back to 2003.

The resignations will enable Mr Erdogan to consolidate control over a once-omnipotent military that has staged a series of coups since 1960 but whose power has been curbed by European Union-backed reforms since it pushed an Islamist-led government out of power in 1997. At the heart of the matter is the alleged "Sledgehammer" plot, based on events at a 2003 military seminar. Officers say evidence against them has been fabricated and allegations of a coup plot is from a war-games exercise.