Turkish president Erdogan says military to be restructured
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has told Reuters that there were significant failures in intelligence ahead of last Friday’s attempted military coup and that the armed forces would quickly be restructured and have fresh blood.
In his first interview since declaring a state of emergency following the abortive coup on Thursday, Erdogan said a new coup attempt was possible but would not be easy, saying “we are more vigilant”.
“It is very clear that there were significant gaps and deficiencies in our intelligence, there is no point trying to hide it or deny it. I said it to the head of national intelligence,” Erdogan told Reuters in his palace in Ankara, which was targeted during the coup attempt.
He said a meeting of the Supreme Military Council (YAS), the top body overseeing the armed forces, which was due to be held on August 1, might be brought forward by a week to oversee the restructuring. The Council is chaired by the prime minister, and includes the defence minister and the chief of staff.
“They are all working together as to what might be done, and … within a very short amount of time a new structure will be emerging. With this new structure, I believe the armed forces will get fresh blood,” Erdogan said.
“After all that has come to pass, I think they must now have drawn very important lessons. This is an ongoing process, we will never stop, we will continue very actively, we have plans,” he continued.
Erdogan looked calm and composed throughout the interview, but security was heightened inside and out his vast palace complex, with police special forces in the gardens and city dump trucks blocking access roads at impromptu checkpoints.
The lights at the palace, which usually illuminate the night sky, have been dimmed in recent days.
Erdogan said there was no obstacle to extending the state of emergency beyond the initial three months if necessary. It would allow his government to take swift measures against supporters of the coup and will permit the president and cabinet to bypass parliament in enacting new laws and to limit or suspend rights and freedoms as they deem necessary.
About 60,000 soldiers, police, judges, civil servants and teachers have been suspended, detained or placed under investigation since the coup attempt was put down.
“This state of emergency is not a curfew. People will still be on the street minding their own business and getting on with daily life,” he said.
Erdogan said the movement of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who he blames for masterminding the attempt to seize power, would be treated as “another separatist terrorist organisation”, drawing a parallel to the state’s fight against Kurdish militants over the past three decades.
“These people have infiltrated the state organisation in this country and they rebelled against the state,” he said, calling the actions of Friday night “inhuman” and “immoral”.
He said the death toll had risen to 246 people excluding the coup plotters and that 2,185 people were wounded. Soldiers used fighters jets, military helicopters and tanks to strike institutions including parliament, the intelligence agency and Erdogan’s palace in Friday’s violence in Istanbul and Ankara.
Ankara has said it will seek the extradition of Gulen, who has denounced the coup attempt and denied any involvement.
The putsch and the purge that has followed have rattled the country of 80 million, a NATO member bordering Syria, Iraq and Iran, and a Western ally in the fight against Islamic State.