BRUSSELS – NATO’s top military officer says that around 150 Turkish officers have been recalled or retired from the alliance’s high command in response to the failed coup attempt in Turkey in July.
U.S. Army General Curtis Scaparrotti said Wednesday that the move had placed “an extra load on our remaining people” and that “it obviously has an impact on their military.”
“I had talented, capable people here and I’m taking a degradation on my staff,” he said.
Scaparrotti said he was concerned about the welfare of the officers and their families, but had received assurances from Turkey’s army chief that they would be treated well.
Turkey has accused U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen of masterminding the failed July 15 attempt to topple the government and has launched a large-scale crackdown on his followers and institutions said to be run by his movement. Authorities have arrested close to 38,000 people and purged more than 100,000 others from government jobs, including the military.
Scaparrotti said he holds regular talks with General Hulusi Akar from NATO ally Turkey, who was taken hostage during the foiled coup.
“I talked to him about my concern about the care for them and their families as well. That’s a concern for those officers who, you know, in some cases really don’t understand what their future is at this point,” Scaparrotti told reporters on the sidelines of NATO talks in Brussels.
One big problem, Scaparrotti said, is that many who left were senior officers and that replacing their lost expertise as military trainers or top pilots would take a long time.
Those recalled or retired make up about half of Turkey’s roughly 300-strong officer contingent at NATO’s high command in Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands. Scaparrotti said that about 75 of those who had left had been replaced so far.
He said he had no suspicion that any of the Turkish officers might have been involved in a coup plot.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.