Turkey’s new top general is close to the government

Özel (R) was born in 1950 and became a staff officer after he completed schooling at the Army Staff College in 1980.
Özel (R) was born in 1950 and became a staff officer after he completed schooling at the Army Staff College in 1980.

Turkey’s new chief of General Staff, Gen. Necdet Özel, is known for his congenial stance toward the government and its policies, according to reports.
Özel, who was swiftly appointed by the government following the resignation of the top military brass on Friday, had refrained from visiting generals apprehended in the “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) coup-plot case and gave warm signals to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an during the government’s “democratic initiative” project.
“During my term of service, we waged the struggle against separatist terror within the [framework] of the law. We examined and investigated every claim that appeared in the press with gravity and sensitivity and informed the relevant offices. In other words, we did not cover up anything,” Özel had said at the transitional ceremony in the 2nd Army Command Headquarters in 2010.

“All our state’s echelons must act with the same mindset and determination. No opportunities must be granted [to those who] strive to play off our citizens against each other,” he had said at the ceremony, which was also attended by Gen. I??k Ko?aner, who resigned Friday.

Özel was born in 1950 and became a staff officer after he completed schooling at the Army Staff College in 1980. He was appointed brigadier general in 1995, and major general in 1999. After serving as commander of the Army Staff College, he was promoted to the post of lieutenant general in 2003 and began heading the 7th Corps Command. He then served as the deputy chief of the Army Training and Doctrine Command and was later appointed a general in the Aegean Army Command in 2007, after which he was assigned to the 2nd Army Command.

When asked by members of the press what he would say to Erdo?an during the latter’s visit to the 2nd Army Command in the eastern province of Malatya, Özel said, “We would only be honored by Mr. Prime Minister’s visit,” on his way out of a ceremony commemorating the death of Atatürk on Nov. 10.

Erdo?an also launched his “democratic initiative” project four days later in Malatya, where he visited Özel at his own office, leading some political circles to believe that the upper echelons of the Turkish Armed Forces felt uneasy about the relationship between the general and the prime minister.

Özel’s name was also invoked during last year’s Supreme Military Council, or YA?, meeting that lasted for eight days. Özel was supposed to be appointed as the Land Forces commander in 2011 and the Chief of General Staff in 2013, in accordance with the customary rules of the Turkish Armed Forces. Former Chief of General Staff ?lker Ba?bu?, however, had recommended Özel for the Land Forces Command during last year’s YA? meeting, a move that would have prevented Özel from becoming the top general in 2013. The move, however, was subsequently blocked by President Abdullah Gül. Özel was then appointed as Gendarmerie commander.

Özel currently possesses the medal of distinguished courage and self-sacrifice and the distinguished service medal of the Turkish Armed Forces. He also possesses the Kyrgyzstan medal of heroism, the Romanian medal of distinguished merit and the Mongolian medal of distinguished service.

Özel was disinterested in politics, according to his friends from the same term.

?amil Tayyar, the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP’s, Gaziantep deputy and a former journalist, described him as “a true gentleman; a respectful soldier who knows his boundaries and does not interfere in politics,” in an article he wrote on Aug. 24, 2010.

Özel refrained from paying a visit to the generals who were apprehended as part of the Sledgehammer trials, an alleged coup plot case along with Air Force Commander Gen. Hasan Aksay, when Ko?aner and Land Forces Commander Gen. Erdal Ceylano?lu went to the Hasdal Military Prison to visit the jailed generals.

Özel is married and the father of one child.


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