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Combat effectiveness questioned after purge following Turkish failed coup

Reporter: Natalie Carney 丨 CCTV.com

11-10-2016 12:49 BJT

Following Turkey's attempted coup over the summer more than 100,000 people were suspended, fired or even arrested, including thousands from the police and Turkish Armed forces, for constituting a threat to national security and for their suspected affiliation with the Fethullah Gulen Terror Organization. Turkey has since also increased its military activity inside and outside its borders, leaving many to speculate how affected the combat effectiveness is of one of NATOs largest armies.

In the aftermath of the July 15 abortive coup attempt by rogue members of the military, mass purges dismissed more than 40% of the Turkish Armed Forces or TSK.

The ranks most affected were generals and admirals. Of the 325 generals in Turkey's army, air and naval forces at the time of the coup, over 45% were discharged.

Along with the compromised reputation of the Turkish military, the purges worried the West of human rights abuses, while NATO was left questioning how effective one of their biggest military allies could now be.

Yet none of this appeared to worry the Turkish government.

"If we look at the relevant numbers, you see that there used to be 11.000 contractual soldiers. But two days ago the number of contractual soldiers reached 16.000. That’s a 45% increase. After the coup attempt on the 15th of July, the army understood that it could find soldiers easier than it used to be," Retired Lieutenant colonel Ibrahim Kaza said.

Earlier this year, the TSK announced that less recruits were signing up than ever before and launched a recruitment campaign in an effort to pull more men and women in. But on the night of July 15th, nationalist pride was at it’s historic highest.

"That night, civilians acted as if they were soldiers; they resisted against the tanks, jets, helicopters. The spirit of the young people drove more people to apply as contractual soldiers. People now understood that their country was in big danger. // So, being in the army, wearing that uniform, being armed, fighting against the coup plotters and terrorists have become something more to admire, rather than just abut making a living," Kaza said.

Meanwhile, Brigadier generals were rapidly replaced and Colonels were quickly promoted. Others may also return to their positions as investigations into hundreds of staff still being detained conclude; those who are cleared are offered their jobs back.

"Also the old army members like me have started to submit a petition to the Ministry of Defense saying if they need them, they are willing to go back to army," Kaza said.

This all comes at a time when more and more soldiers are needed for operations at home and abroad.

Yet despite this uptick, the frequent threat of terrorism along with Ankara’s ramping up of military operations in Syria and Iraq, appears to have dampened that post coup enthusiasm.

21-year-old Sinan Yılmaz passed all his exams and went to his interviews.

"Every young Turkish man wants to be in the army, in the military, but certain problems that we have in our country makes people step back. I changed my mind for the same reason. As well the army gives you an average salary, which is not enough to do what you want. It is not worth it. Of course you have to bear this for your country but people also need to care for their families. They have a future, they have a life," Yılmaz said.

While certain areas still need beefing up such as Turkey’s air force combat pilots, the second army command responsible for combating terror in the southeast, border security with Syria and the current Operation Euphrates Shield, did not suffer much.

Yet more changes are expected, if controversial constitutional changes place The Chief of General Staff and The National Intelligence Agency under the Presidency, instead of the Prime Ministry.

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