Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a number of plans for changes to the organisational structure of Turkey’s military late Saturday, weeks after the botched coup attempt by a faction of the country’s armed forces to overthrow the government.
The changes included bringing the army, navy and air force directly under the Turkish Defence Ministry, Erdogan said in a live interview to a private broadcaster ATV.
"Our armed forces will be much stronger with the latest decree we are preparing. Our force commanders will report to the defence minister," Erdogan said.
Under the presidency
The Turkish president also suggested making the chief of general staff, the most senior military position, and the National Intelligence Agency directly answerable to the presidency. Erdogan added this would be discussed with opposition leaders; it would require a constitutional change and will empower the presidency more.
Both the general staff and the intelligence agency now report to the prime minister's office.
"Military schools will be shut down... We will establish a national defence university," he added. This would include army, air force and naval academies.
A gendarmerie academy will also be established, according to the Guardian. He announced that Turkey will cut the size of gendarmerie security forces while expanding its weaponry.
Responsibility for military hospitals would be transferred to the health ministry, Erdogan said.
Referring to Fethullah Gulen, the US-based Muslim cleric, Erdogan described him as a pawn backed by a "mastermind" and hinted that greater powers were behind the attempted putsch.
Turkish government has blamed Gulen and the followers of the Gulen movement for orchestrating the violent coup attempt on July 15 which was resisted by the Turkish people by sacrificing hundreds of lives.
According to the updated number of casualties announced by Erdogan on Friday, the misadventure claimed the lives of 237 people, including 170 civilians, 62 police officers and five soldiers. He put the number of injured at 2,191.
Following the failed coup, the Turkish government arrested and detained hundreds of high-ranking military officers.
However, on Thursday, Turkey’s Supreme Military Council, which met under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, decided that General Hulusi Akar will continue to serve as the country's chief of general staff.
The meeting also decided to keep the existing commanders of land, air and naval forces. The decisions were later approved by President Erdogan.
Almost 1,400 personnel expelled
Turkey has dismissed 1,389 personnel from the armed forces for suspected links to Gulen, Anadolu Agency reported on Sunday.
It gave no other details. The report came hours after Erdogan said he planned several changes to the armed forces.
Earlier on Saturday, 758 out of 989 soldiers who had been detained on suspicion of being involved in the July 15 coup attempt were released.
The soldiers, including military students, had been detained under an investigation by Istanbul prosecutors, and were released on the prosecutors’ recommendation after giving testimony.
An Istanbul judge decided to release the 758 soldiers, calling their detention unnecessary.