Turkey’s Erdogan tightens control on security agencies

AFP, ANKARA

Mon, Aug 01, 2016 - Page 4

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday said he wanted to introduce constitutional changes to bring the Turkish spy agency and military chief of staff directly under his control as he seeks to tighten his grip on the country after a failed coup.

Turkey meanwhile pressed ahead with a crackdown on the alleged accomplices of the coup, which Erdogan said has resulted in the detention of about 19,000 people, but has also sparked international concern.

“We are going to introduce a small constitutional package [to parliament] which, if approved, will bring the National Intelligence Organization [MIT] and chief of staff under the control of the presidency,” Erdogan told A-Haber television in an interview.

The government would need support from opposition parties to push through the shift as a super majority of two-thirds of deputies is needed to make constitutional changes.

Erdogan added that in the wake of the July 15 coup bid “military schools will be closed... and a national military university will be founded” as part of a wide-ranging shake-up of the military.

He also said that the heads of the land, sea and air forces will now have to report directly to Turkish Minister of Defense Fikri Isik.

The changes, announced just over two weeks after the coup, appear aimed at giving Erdogan more control over the armed forces and intelligence.

Rogue elements in the military — who Erdogan says were controlled by the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen — surprised the authorities by launching the coup, while the president has also complained of intelligence failures.

Erdogan said he was unhappy with the information received from the MIT and its chief Hakan Fidan on the night of the coup, complaining that valuable time had been lost.

“There was unfortunately in all of this a serious intelligence failure,” he said.