Toygun Atilla - ANKARA
It will take the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) up to 10 years to regain its strength, a retired Turkish Air Force general who was among the 236 suspects acquitted in the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup plot case has said, while commenting on the suspensions handed out since the July 15 failed coup attempt.
“They [coup plotters] harmed Turkey, our nation and the TSK. I don’t think it’s possible for the armed forces to gain the strength it had in 2011 before eight or 10 years,” Retired Gen. Bilgin Balanlı told daily Hürriyet on Aug. 7, adding that the process of harming the Air Force started with the Balyoz case in 2011.
Balyoz was an alleged military coup plot targeting the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) which was allegedly drafted in 2003. The case’s indictment alleged that factions within the military had planned drastic actions to foment unrest in the country in order to remove the AKP from power.
All 236 suspects in the Balyoz coup plot case were acquitted on March 31, 2015, after the case’s prosecutor argued that digital data in the files submitted as evidence in the case was “fake” and did not constitute evidence.
Balanlı, who was the only four-star general on active duty who was a suspect in the coup plot case, was in line to be appointed to Chief of Air Staff in August 2011 if he had not been arrested and sent to jail just two months before. He spent two years in jail and was forced to retire.
Balanlı, likening the Air Force to an eagle, said that its head was cut off with the Balyoz case.
“The eagle’s wings and tail were also pulled off [after the coup attempt],” Balanlı said, adding that the people who had replaced them with “conspiracies” during the Balyoz case destroyed their efforts in less than five years.
“It kills me to see the position that the people who replaced us after we were discharged with conspiracies put our Armed Forces. These traitors destroyed our efforts in less than five years,” he also said.
Saying that planning to fly F-16s takes a week, Balanlı noted that a serious preparation period was necessary to fly the warplanes.
“The fact that F-16 jets were in the air on July 15 shows that a serious number of military personnel were involved,” he said.
During the interview, Balanlı said the TSK hadn’t cleared the “gang members” out of its ranks, but rather placed them into significant spots, thus laying the groundwork for the failed takeover.
“The suspensions from the Air Force weren’t limited to Balyoz or similar cases. Hundreds of soldiers were suspended from the Air Force under the name of discipline investigations. No one said anything about that. I think that the command, which turned a blind eye to this, was weak,” he added.
Saying that the TSK can heal its wounds in a few years if efficient personnel were to be assigned, Balanlı noted that the values that form the structure of the TSK shouldn’t be played with.
“The state doesn’t act with anger. The personnel in the institutions do the coup, not the institutions themselves,” he said.
Commenting on the possibility of pilots resigning due to trust issues after the failed takeover, Balanlı said that it would cause trouble in the Air Force and necessary measures should be planned beforehand.