Turkey’s struggle with DAESH: New opportunities
When the TSK began its operations against DAESH-controlled Jarablus, it became clear the discovery and elimination of FETÖ after the coup attempt did not weaken Turkish security, it strengthened it.
In the aftermath of the July 15 coup attempt, members of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) were speedily eliminated from state institutions, with the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) foremost among them. Tens of thousands of people have been laid off, many have been arrested and trials have begun. This process is actually one of purification, and the state is taking these steps in order to remove the “parallel state” present within it. The July 15 coup attempt showed the extent of the damage that this type of a secret formation within the state can cause through use of terrorism when necessary, potentially tearing down the democratic political system. The purification process being carried out within the legal boundaries by the authorized organs of the state has been presented in various ways in the Western media. Firstly, the cleansing of FETÖ members within the state and the start of their trials was presented as “the administration eliminating the opposition.” They alleged that the unsuccessful coup attempt had “strengthened Recep Tayyip Erdoğan” and that this “damaged Turkish democracy.”
Another way the purification process has been presented in Western media has been in the shape of “the state being weakened and enfeebled by these eliminations.” It was claimed that with the eliminations being carried out, the state’s security apparatus would not function, which would throw the country’s security into turmoil. There were even those who claimed that this process endangered the U.S.’s nuclear weapons at İncirlik Air Base and that the U.S. actually needed to intervene in this process. Alongside all of this, there were those who stated that with the removals after July 15, “the Turkish army’s struggle with DAESH would be weakened.” Those who alleged this were not just members of the media. U.S. Central Command General Joseph Votel said that the struggle against DAESH would be negatively affected by the aftermath of the July 15 coup attempt. Similarly, U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper also said that what occurred in the aftermath of July 15 affected the entirety of Turkey’s national security apparatus and stated, “Our interlocutors have either been eliminated or arrested,” making a statement parallel to that of Votel.
There is no doubt that these comments are manipulative and partial and that they have been developed as part of an ideological agenda. First the PKK, followed by DAESH, fed into these manipulative comments through their terrorist attacks and established the groundwork for the thesis of weakened security due to the enfeeblement of the Turkish state. The fact that Turkey has been struggling against these terrorist organizations for a long time, and that both organizations have carried out worse attacks, was almost never mentioned throughout this process.
Two days ago, in the early hours of the morning, when the TSK began its operations against DAESH-controlled Jarablus and served in cleansing Jarablus of DAESH, it was made clear that not only were the aforementioned comments manipulative, they were also wrong. The discovery and elimination of FETÖ after the coup attempt and the beginning of its removal from the state apparatus did not weaken Turkish security- on the contrary, it strengthened it. It is exactly for this reason that I wrote a week after the coup attempt that Turkey was now more secure than ever before.
In the aftermath of July 15, first and foremost there was a commonality established in the state’s security reflexes and threat perceptions. The separation present between the threat of the elected civilian government and the army was closed; the army began to accept the civilian government’s threat as the principal one. When it received the order to move, it moved. Alongside this, with the purification process experienced in the aftermath of July 15, the field operations carried out by the security forces began to take on a much more results-oriented quality. These results will become much clearer in time. The capacity to misguide and cause field operations to fail from the inside was minimized.
We saw once again how mistaken it was to comment on Turkey based not on facts, but through the discourse of the marginal opposition attempting to take over the administration through illegal means, as well as through the ever-more irrational and unjustified enmity towards Erdoğan. And we saw one more time that actors taking such positions are quickly losing the advantages they once had in their relations with Turkey and are being forced to work harder and harder to get them back.
This article was first published by Daily Sabah on August 26, 2016.