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Turkish Military’s Leadership Shuffle: Metin Gürak Takes Over as Chief of General Staff, Upending Hulusi Akar’s Plans

Former soldier and academic Hakan Şahin claims that Hulusi Akar’s plans were thrown into disarray when General Metin Gürak assumed the “vacant” Chief of General Staff position after Yaşar Güler became Minister of National Defense.

ERDOĞAN WITHDRAWS APPROVAL DUE TO CHANGING DYNAMICS

Hakan Şahin suggests that due to “shifting dynamics and new parameters” between July 2022 and June 2023, President Erdoğan revoked his silent approval of Akar’s plans. Şahin argues that the post-YAŞ (Supreme Military Council) era in the Turkish Armed Forces has begun without Hulusi Akar.

SECOND MOVE AGAINST AKAR Hakan Şahin writes: In my view, yesterday’s YAŞ meeting, which resulted in General Metin Gürak being appointed as Chief of General Staff, was essentially a second round of the upcoming High Military Council, expected to take place this summer. It seems that the first and primary round took place approximately two months ago when President Erdoğan removed Hulusi Akar from the Ministry of National Defense.

ERDOĞAN EXCLUDES AKAR FROM THE EQUATION Yesterday, we witnessed the consequences of the second round, which effectively nullified a planning leg inherited from last year. This planning, which I believe belonged to Hulusi Akar from last year, appears to have been scrapped when Erdoğan unexpectedly removed Hulusi Akar.

AKAR’S PLAN PASSED IN PARLIAMENT LAST YEAR The plan I believe to be Akar’s was as follows: The normal retirement age for military personnel is 65 years, but when a general becomes Chief of General Staff, the legal age limit is extended by two years, making it 67.

On July 2 of last year (just before YAŞ), a legislative change was passed in parliament that extended the Chief of General Staff’s retirement age of 67 by an additional five years, making it 72.

Had this change not been made, Yaşar Güler would have retired last year, and most likely, the then-Land Forces Commander General Musa Avsever would have replaced him, and then General Metin Gürak would have succeeded Avsever in the Land Forces Command position, making him the next Chief of General Staff.

With this change, all the dynamics would have shifted: If Hulusi Akar remained as Minister for another five years, Yaşar Güler could have served as Chief of General Staff for five more years as well. The legal obstacle to this scenario was removed.

GÜRAK WOULD RETIRE FROM THE LAND FORCES IN 2025 However, the consequences did not end there. Another result of the change was that Gürak’s potential Chief of General Staff position was blocked. As long as the Chief of General Staff position was occupied by Güler or Avsever (as the five-year extension allowed), Metin Gürak would probably, at best, retire from the Land Forces Command due to age in 2025.

This change was likely designed by Akar, and presumably, Erdoğan silently approved it last year.

AKAR REMOVED FROM THE CABINET IN JUNE However, due to shifting dynamics and newly introduced parameters between July 2022 and June 2023, Erdoğan withdrew his silent approval. Akar’s removal from office was a clear indication of this. Therefore, it appears that the decisions announced in yesterday’s YAŞ meeting were not made yesterday; they had already been made when Erdoğan announced the new cabinet without Akar on June 3.

The fact that General Avsever did not wear the exclusive rank insignia of a general for Chief of General Staff, at least temporarily, supports this scenario.

THE FIRST COMMAND CADRE WITHOUT AKAR HAS BEEN DETERMINED

Yesterday, we also learned the names of the new command cadre in the era without Hulusi Akar.

In this context, it’s worth mentioning that one of the possible obstacles to General Gürak’s appointment as Chief of General Staff was that he had not held a Force Command position. Both the TSK Personnel Law and the Law on the Duties and Powers of the Chief of General Staff required that a general must have previously served as a Commander of the Army, Navy, or Air Force to be eligible for the Chief of General Staff position.

Both laws were amended immediately after the coup attempt in August 2016 through two separate emergency decrees, removing the requirement for having held a Force Command position. This meant, from the President’s perspective, a much wider pool of generals to choose from.

As a result, General Gürak became the first general to be directly appointed as Chief of General Staff without serving in a Force Command position.

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