The Turkish Armed Forces (TAF; Turkish: Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri, TSK) are the military forces of the Republic of Turkey. They consist of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. The Gendarmerie and the Coast Guard, both of which have law enforcement and military functions, operate as components of the internal security forces in peacetime, and are subordinate to the Ministry of Interior. In wartime, they are subordinate to the Army and Navy. The President of Turkey is the military's overall head.
The current Chief of the General staff is General Hulusi Akar. The Chief of the General Staff is the Commander of the Armed Forces. In wartime, he acts as the Commander in Chief on behalf of the President of Turkey, who represents the Supreme Military Command of the TAF on behalf of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. Commanding the Armed Forces and establishing the policies and programs related with the preparation for combat of personnel, intelligence, operations, organization, training and logistic services are the responsibilities of the General Staff. Furthermore, the General Staff coordinates the military relations of the TAF with NATO member states and other friendly nations.
Official claims state that the army was founded by Modu Chanyu of the Xiongnu Empire in 209 BC, but the modern history of the army began with its formation after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. After becoming a member of NATO on 18 February 1952, Turkey initiated a comprehensive modernization program for its armed forces. The Turkish Army sent troops to fight in Korea, where they played pivotal roles at some points. Towards the end of the 1980s, a second restructuring process was initiated. The Turkish Armed Forces participate in European Union battlegroups under the control of the European Council, namely the Italian-Romanian-Turkish Battlegroup. The TAF also contributes operational staff to the Eurocorps multinational army corps initiative of the EU and NATO.
The Turkish Armed Forces collectively rank as the second largest standing military force in NATO, after the U.S. Armed Forces, with an estimated strength in 2015 of 639,551 military, civilian and paramilitary personnel. Turkey is one of five NATO member states which are part of the nuclear sharing policy of the alliance, together with Belgium, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. A total of 90 B61 nuclear bombs are hosted at the Incirlik Air Base, 40 of which are allocated for use by the Turkish Air Force in case of a nuclear conflict, but their use requires the approval of NATO.
War of Independence
Main article: Turkish War of Independence
After the end of World War I, many Ottoman military personnel escaped from Rumelia to Anatolia in order to take part in the national movement. During the War of Independence, on 3 May 1920, Birinci Ferik Mustafa Fevzi Pasha (Çakmak) was appointed the Minister of National Defence, Mirliva İsmet Pasha (İnönü) was appointed the Minister of the Chief of General Staff of the government of the Grand National Assembly (GNA). But on 3 August 1921, the GNA resigned İsmet Pasha from the Minister of National Defence because of his failure at Eskişehir-Kütahya and on 5 August, just before the Battle of Sakarya, appointed the chairman of GNA Mustafa Kemal Pasha (Atatürk) to the commander-in-chief of the Army of the GNA. Turkey won the War of Independence in 1922.
World War II
Turkey remained neutral until the final stages of World War II. In the initial stage of World War II, Turkey signed a treaty of mutual assistance with Great Britain and France. But after the fall of France, the Turkish government tried to maintain an equal distance with both the Allies and the Axis. Following Germany's occupation of the Balkan states, upon which the Axis became neighbours with Turkey in Thrace and the eastern islands of the Aegean Sea, Turkey signed a Treaty of Friendship and Non-Aggression with Germany on 18 June 1941.
After the German-Soviet War broke out, the Turkish government sent a military delegation of observers under Lieutenant General Ali Fuat Erden to the German Eastern Front and Germany. After the German retreat from the Caucasus, the Turkish government got closer with the Allies and Winston Churchill secretly met with İsmet İnönü at Yenice Train Station near Adana on 30 January 1943, with the intent of persuading Turkey to join the war on the side of the Allies. A few days before the start of Operation Zitadelle in July 1943, the Turkish government sent a military delegation under General Cemil Cahit Toydemir to Belgorod and observed the exercises of the 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion and its equipment.
But after the failure of Operation Zitadelle, the Turkish government participated in the Second Cairo Conference in December 1943, where Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and İsmet İnönü reached an agreement on issues regarding Turkey's possible contribution to the Allies. On 23 February 1945, Turkey joined the Allies by declaring war against Germany and Japan, after it was announced at the Yalta Conference that only the states which were formally at war with Germany and Japan by 1 March 1945 would be admitted to the United Nations.
Main articles: Turkish Brigade and Battle of Wawon
Turkey participated in the Korean War as a member state of the United Nations and sent the Turkish Brigade to South Korea, which suffered 731 losses in combat. On 18 February 1952, Turkey became a member of NATO. The Korean government donated a war memorial for the Turkish soldiers who fought and died in Korea. The Korean pagoda is in Ankara and it was donated in 1973 for the 50th anniversary of the Turkish Republic.
Main articles: Cyprus dispute and Military operations during the Invasion of Cyprus (1974)
On 20 July 1974, the TAF launched an amphibious and airborne assault operation on Cyprus, in response to the 1974 Cypriot coup d'état which had been staged by EOKA-B and the Cypriot National Guard against president Makarios III with the intention of annexing the island to Greece; but the military intervention ended up with Turkey occupying a considerable area on the northern part of Cyprus and helping to establish a local government of Turkish Cypriots there, which has thus far been recognized only by Turkey. The intervention came after more than a decade of intercommunal violence (1963–1974) between the island's Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, resulting from the constitutional breakdown of 1963. Turkey invoked its role as a guarantor under the Treaty of Guarantee in justification for the military intervention. Turkish forces landed on the island in two waves, securing 37% of the island's territory in the northeast for the Turkish Cypriots, who had been isolated in small enclaves across the island prior to the military intervention.
In the aftermath, the Turkish Cypriots declared a separate political entity in the form of the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus in 1975; and in 1983 made a unilateral declaration of independence as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which was recognized only by Turkey. The United Nations continues to recognize the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus according to the terms of its independence in 1960. The conflict continues to overshadow Turkish relations with Greece and with the European Union. In 2004, during the referendum for the Annan Plan for Cyprus (a United Nations proposal to resolve the Cyprus dispute) 76% of the Greek Cypriots rejected the proposal, while 65% of the Turkish Cypriots accepted it.
PKK Campaign [ edit ]
Main article: Turkey – Kurdistan Workers' Party conflict
The TAF are in a protracted campaign against the PKK (recognized as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and NATO) which has involved frequent forays into neighbouring Iraq.
During the 1980s and 1990s many Kurdish rural communities were uprooted in an effort to limit the PKK's base of logistical support.
War in Bosnia and Kosovo
Main articles: Bosnian War and Kosovo War
See also: Implementation Force, Kosovo Force, and SFOR
Turkey contributed troops in several NATO-led peace forces in Bosnia and Kosovo. Currently there are 402 Turkish troops in Kosovo Force.
War in Afghanistan
After the 2003 Istanbul Bombings were linked to Al-Qaeda, Turkey deployed troops to Afghanistan to fight Taliban forces and Al-Qaeda operatives, with the hopes of dismantling both groups. Turkey's responsibilities include providing security in Kabul (it currently leads Regional Command Capital), as well as in Wardak Province, where it leads PRT Maidan Shahr. Turkey was once the third largest contingent within the International Security Assistance Force. Turkey's troops are not engaged in combat operations and Ankara has long resisted pressure from Washington to offer more combat troops. According to the Washington Post, in December 2009, after US President Barack Obama announced he would deploy 30,000 more U.S. soldiers, and that Washington wants others to follow suit, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reacted with the message that Turkey would not contribute additional troops to Afghanistan. "Turkey has already done what it can do by boosting its contingent of soldiers there to 1,750 from around 700 without being asked", said Erdoğan, who stressed that Turkey would continue its training of Afghan security forces.
The TAF have performed "Disaster Relief Operations," as in the 1999 İzmit earthquake in the Marmara Region of Turkey. Apart from contributing to NATO, the Turkish Navy also contributes to the Black Sea Naval Co-operation Task Group, which was created in early 2001 by Turkey, Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia and Ukraine for search and rescue and other humanitarian operations in the Black Sea.
According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), in 2010 the Turkish Armed Forces had an active strength of around 510,000 personnel. In addition, it was estimated that there were 378,700 reserve personnel and 152,200 paramilitary personnel (Turkish Gendarmerie and Turkish Coast Guard), giving a combined active and reserve strength of around 1,041,900 personnel. In 2010, the defence budget amounted to 26 billion liras. The Law on the Court of Accounts was supposed to initiate external ex-post audits of armed forces' expenditure and pave the way for audits of extra budgetary resources earmarked for the defence sector, including the Defence Industry Support Fund. However, the Ministry of Defense has not provided the necessary information, so the armed forces expenditure is not being properly checked.
In 1998, Turkey announced a programme of modernisation worth US$160 billion over a twenty-year period in various projects including tanks, fighter jets, helicopters, submarines, warships and assault rifles. Turkey is a Level 3 contributor to the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme. The final goal of Turkey is to produce new-generation indigenous military equipment and to become increasingly self-sufficient in terms of military technologies.
Havelsan of Turkey and Boeing of the United States are in the process of developing a next-generation, high-altitude ballistic missile defence shield. Turkey has chosen the Chinese defense firm CPMIEC to co-produce a $4 billion long-range air and missile system.
Main articles: General Staff of the Republic of Turkey and Special Forces (Turkish Armed Forces)
The General Staff of the Republic of Turkey presides over the Armed Forces of the Republic of Turkey, comprising the Army, Navy and Air Force. The General Command of the Gendarmerie and the Coast Guard, which operate as parts of the internal security forces in peacetime, are subordinate to the Army and Navy Commands, respectively, in wartime, and both have law enforcement and military functions.
Also, the General Staff is in command of the Special Forces, which is not aligned to any force command within the TAF. The Maroon Berets get their orders directly from the General Staff of the Republic of Turkey.
The Turkish Land Forces, or Turkish Army, can trace its origins in the remnants of Ottoman forces during the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. When Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his colleagues formed the Grand National Assembly (GNA) in Ankara on 23 April 1921, the XV Corps under the command of Kâzım Karabekir was the only corps which had any combat value. On 8 November 1920, the GNA decided to establish a standing army (Düzenli ordu) instead of irregular troops (the Kuva-yi Milliye, Kuva-yi Seyyare, etc.) The army of the government of the GNA won the Turkish War of Independence in 1922.
As of 2006, the Turkish Army had 1,300 troops deployed in northern Iraq, according to documents released as part of the United States diplomatic cables leak. The Turkish Army also maintains around 17,500 troops in Northern Cyprus, as part of the Cyprus Turkish Peace Force (Kıbrıs Türk Barış Kuvvetleri, or KTBK.)
The Turkish Naval Forces, or Turkish Navy, constitutes the naval warfare service branch of the Turkish Armed Forces. The Turkish Navy maintains several Marines and Special Operations units. The Amphibious Marines Brigade (Amfibi Deniz Piyade Tugayı) based in Foçanear İzmir consists of 4,500 men, three amphibious battalions, an MBT battalion, an artillery battalion, a support battalion and other company-sized units. The Su Altı Taarruz (S.A.T. – Underwater Attack) is dedicated to missions including the acquisition of military intelligence, amphibious assault, counter-terrorism and VIP protection; while the Su Altı Savunma (S.A.S. – Underwater Defense) is dedicated to coastal defense operations (such as clearing mines or unexploded torpedoes) and disabling enemy vessels or weapons with underwater operations; as well as counter-terrorism and VIP protection missions.
The Turkish Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the Turkish Armed Forces. It is primarily responsible for the protection and sovereignty of Turkish airspace but also provides air-power to the other service branches. Turkey is one of five NATO member states which are part of the nuclear sharing policy of the alliance, together with Belgium, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. A total of 90 B61 nuclear bombs are hosted at the Incirlik Air Base, 40 of which are allocated for use by the Turkish Air Force in case of a nuclear conflict, but their use requires the approval of NATO.
The Air Force took part in the Operation Deliberate Force of 1995 and Operation Allied Force of 1999, and later participated in the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina, employing two squadrons (one in the Ghedi fighter wing, and after 2000 one in the Aviano fighter wing.) They returned to Turkey in 2001. In 2006, 4 Turkish F-16 fighter jets were deployed for NATO's Baltic Air Policingoperation.
The Gendarmerie General Command, or Turkish Gendarmerie, is responsible for maintaining law and order in rural areas which do not fall under the jurisdiction of regular police forces. The Gendarmerie has around 200,000 active personnel. The Jandarma Özel Harekat (Gendarmerie Special Operations Command) units of the Turkish Gendarmerie are trained for riot control, urban warfare and counter-terrorism warfare. The Turkish Coast Guard is responsible for maintaining law and order in the Turkish territorial waters. It has around 2,200 active personnel. It is responsible to the Interior Ministry during peace time. In peacetime, the Grendarmerie and the Coast Guard fall under the control of the Ministry of the Interior, not the Turkish Armed Forces.
Main article: Turkish Coast Guard
The Turkish Coast Guard is a branch of the Turkish Armed Forces and was established in 1859. Affiliated with the Guarding Administration (Ottoman Turkish: Muhafaza Memurluğu), the Coast Guard is responsible for controlling the maritime jurisdiction areas and coasts of Turkey and fighting all kinds of illegal actions within its area of responsibility. The Turkish Coast Guard is also the main Search and Rescue Coordination Authority in the Turkish SAR Zone. During peacetime, it is under the command of the Turkish Interior Ministry. However, during emergency and war time it falls under the command of the Turkish Navy.
Turkish War Academies
Turkish War Academies constitute the educational branch of the Turkish Armed Forces. The Ottoman Military College, which later evolved into the Turkish Army War College, was established in 1848. The Naval War College was established in 1864, and the Air War College was established in 1937 (the Aircraft School (Tayyare Mektebi) of the Ottoman Aviation Squadrons was established in 1912, and the Naval Aircraft School (Bahriye Tayyare Mektebi) was established in 1914.)
In order to train Staff Officers in the same system as European armies, the 3rd and 4th years were created in the Army War Academy under the name of "Imperial War School of Military Sciences, General Staff Courses" in 1848. As part of the reorganization efforts of the Ottoman Army, new arrangements were implemented in 1866 for the Staff College and other Military Schools.
Through these arrangements, the General Staff training was extended to three years, and with additional military courses a special emphasis was placed on exercises and hands-on training. Although being a staff officer was initially considered a different military branch in itself, effective from 1867 new programs were implemented to train staff officers for branches such as the infantry, cavalry and artillery. In 1899, a new system was developed on the basis of the view that the General Staff Courses should train more officers with higher military education in addition to Staff Officers’ training. Following this principle, a greater number of officers from the Army War Academy began to be admitted to the Staff College. This process continued until 1908. Following the declaration of the Second Constitutional Era in 1908, the structure of the Staff College was rearranged with a new Staff College Regulation on 4 August 1909. A couple of months later, in October, the College was moved from Harbiye to the Yıldız Palace, Crown Prices’ Quarter with the new designation "General Staff School". With this fundamental change, the practice of direct transition from Army War Academy to Staff College was abolished, and admission into Staff College now required two years of field service following the Army War Academy. Afterwards, the officers were subjected to examinations, and those who passed the exam were admitted into the College as Staff Officer candidates. Following the occupation of Istanbul by the Allies of World War I on 16 March 1920, Ottoman military schools were dissolved by the victors of the First World War; nevertheless, the Staff College managed to continue its activities until April 1921 at the Şerif Pasha Mansion in Teşvikiye, Istanbul, where it was relocated on 28 January 1919. In early 1921, it was decided that the Staff College should be moved to Beylerbeyi, Istanbul. However, since all instructors and students had gone to Anatolia to join the Turkish War of Independence, the Staff College was closed down temporarily.
On 13 October 1923, shortly before the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey on October 29, the Staff College restarted its education and training activities under the name of "Higher Military College" in Beyazıt, Istanbul, in the building of the Ministry of War, today used as the rectorate building of Istanbul University. About six months later, on 24 March 1924, the College was renamed the "Directorate of the General Staff College" and moved to the Yıldız Palace. In 1927, it was once more renamed as the "Staff College Directorate". The College continued its education and training activities in this location until 1975. The War Colleges Command was formed in March 1949. The National Security College was founded in 1952 and the Armed Forces College was established in 1954. The National Security College moved to Ankara in 1995, and by moving back to Istanbul in 2012, it was merged with the Armed Forces College, and since then has been continuing its education and training activities as the Armed Forces Higher Command and Control College.
Role of the military in Turkish politics
After the Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk prohibited the political activities of officers in active service with the Military Penal Code numbered 1632 and dated 22 May 1930 (Askeri Ceza Kanunu). However, after the coups d'état in 1960, the Millî Birlik Komitesi (National Unity Committee) established the Inner Service Act of the Turkish Armed Forces (Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri İç Hizmet Kanunu) on 4 January 1961 to legitimize their military interventions in politics. In subsequent coup d'états and coup d'état attempts, they showed reasons to justify their political activities especially with the article 35 and 85 of this act.
The Turkish military perceived itself as the guardian of Kemalist ideology, the official state ideology, especially of the secular aspects of Kemalism. The TAF still maintains an important degree of influence over the decision making process regarding issues related to Turkish national security, albeit decreased in the past decades, via the National Security Council.
The military had a record of intervening in politics, removing elected governments four times in the past. Indeed, it assumed power for several periods in the latter half of the 20th century. It executed three coups d'état: in 1960 (May 27 coup), in 1971 (March 12 coup), and in 1980 (September 12 coup). Following the 1960 coup d'état, the military executed the first democratically elected prime minister in Turkey, Adnan Menderes, in 1961. Most recently, it maneuvered the removal of an Islamist prime minister, Necmettin Erbakan, in 1997 (known as the February 28 memorandum). Contrary to outsider expectations, the Turkish populace was not uniformly averse to coups; many welcomed the ejection of governments they perceived as unconstitutional.
On 27 April 2007, in advance of the 4 November 2007 presidential election, and in reaction to the politics of Abdullah Gül, who has a past record of involvement in Islamistpolitical movements and banned Islamist parties such as the Welfare Party, the army issued a statement of its interests. It said that the army is a party to "arguments" regarding secularism; that Islamism ran counter to the secular nature of Turkey, and to the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The Army's statement ended with a clear warning that the TAF stood ready to intervene if the secular nature of the Turkish Constitution is compromised, stating that "the Turkish Armed Forces maintain their sound determination to carry out their duties stemming from laws to protect the unchangeable characteristics of the Republic of Turkey. Their loyalty to this determination is absolute."
Over a hundred people, including several generals, have been detained or questioned since July 2008 with respect to so-called organisation Ergenekon, an alleged clandestine, ultra-nationalist organization with ties to members of the country's military and security forces. The group is accused of terrorism in Turkey. These accusing claims are reported, even while the trials are going on, mostly in the counter-secular and Islamist media organs.
On 22 February 2010 more than 40 officers were arrested and then formally charged with attempting to overthrow the government with respect to so-called "Sledgehammer" plot. They include four admirals, a general and two colonels, some of them retired, including former commanders of the Turkish navy and air force (three days later, the former commanders of the navy and air force were released). Partially as a result, the Washington Post reported in April 2010 that the military's power had decreased.
On the eve of the Supreme Military Council of August 2011, the Chief of the General Staff, along with the Army, Navy, and Air Force commanders, requested their retirement, in protest of the mass arrests which they perceived as a deliberate and planned attack against the Kemalist and secular-minded officers of the Turkish Armed Forces by the Islamists in Turkey, who began to control key positions in the Turkish government, judiciary and police. The swift replacement of the force commanders in the Supreme Military Council meeting affirmed the government's control over the appointment of top-level commanders.
However, promotions continue to be determined by the General Staff with limited civilian control. The European Commission, in its 2011 regular yearly report on Turkey's progress towards EU accession, stated that "further reforms on the composition and powers of the Supreme Military Council, particularly on the legal basis of promotions, still need to materialise." The service branch commanders continue to report to the Prime Minister instead of the Defence Minister.
In July 2016, various factions of the Turkish Armed Forces attempted to take over the government, but were repelled by their colleagues soon after. Many lives have been lost and hundreds have been injured. Thousands of military personnel has been arrested and structure of the armed forces has been overhauled.