Turkey's president has said he plans to have the country's military and intelligence branches report directly to him. He also said the US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, blamed for the recent failed coup, was a pawn.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the comments concerning the military in an interview with pro-government broadcaster A Haber, saying his planned constitutional reforms would make the military stronger following the failed attempt to overthrow the government on July 15/16.
Under the plans Turkey's spy agency, the National Intelligence Organization (MIT), and the military chief of staff would report directly to the president.
Erdogan also said the country's military academies would be replaced by a national defense university. The plans would be announced in the government's official gazette on Sunday, and Erdogan would seek parliamentary approval for what he described as a small constitutional package.
Erdogan says Fethullah Gülen, who he claims was behind the failed coup, was backed by a "mastermind"
He also revealed plans to reduce the size of the gendarmerie security forces, but said the force would be stronger in terms of weaponry.
The gendarmerie is a branch of the Turkish Armed Forces responsible for policing rural areas, internal security and border control. It currently has more than a quarter of a million sworn members.
Last week, the government said the agency would report to the Interior Ministry.
Cleansing the military
Turkey's military, the second-largest in the NATO defense alliance, has been hard hit in the wake of the coup, which left more than 200 people killed and over 2,000 wounded.
A nationwide state of emergency has led to a wide-reaching purge, which has seen about 40 percent of all generals and admirals dismissed. Over 9,000 people, mostly members of the military, have been detained, according to the latest figures from Turkey's Interior Minister Efkan Ala.
On Thursday, 99 colonels were promoted to the rank of general or admiral, following the dishonorable discharge of nearly 1,700 military personnel.
In the same interview late Saturday, Erdogan said the US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, who he believes was behind the failed coup, was merely a pawn. He told A-Haber TV that Gülen was supported by a "mastermind."
Erdogan also claimed his ruling AK Party had been infiltrated by Gülen's supporters, but told Turkish TV that they have been "cleansed."
Critics say Erdogan is taking advantage of the failed revolt to strengthen his power base. The US has also warned that the ongoing military purge US intel director: Turkish purge impeding fight against 'Islamic State'may impact the fight against the self-styled "Islamic State" militant group, which is being carried out from southern Turkey.
Earlier Saturday, an Istanbul court released 758 conscripted soldiers detained as part of the investigation into the failed coup. Military high school students were among those freed.
A judge ruled that their detention was unnecessary; 231 conscripts remain in detention.
mm/cmk (AFP, AP, Reuters)