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Turkey: Armed Forces
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Armed Forces


Composed of elements of regular cadre and conscripts, the armed forces in 1994 had an active-duty strength estimated by The Military Balance, 1994-1995 at 503,800 officers and enlisted personnel. Of this total, some 93,600 were regulars in career assignments; the remaining 410,200 were draftees. The staffing level already had been reduced by 6 percent from that in 1990 as a consequence of forces reorganization.

Article 117 of the constitution stipulates that the president of the republic is the commander in chief of the armed forces. Responsibility for ensuring security and military preparedness is delegated to the prime minister and the Council of Ministers (the cabinet), who are appointed by the president but are subject to a legislative vote of confidence. Article 118 of the constitution prescribes that the National Security Council (NSC -- see Glossary) shall submit its views to the Council of Ministers on pending decisions and shall coordinate the formulation, establishment, and implementation of the state's national security policy. A joint body of the chief civilian and military officials concerned with national defense and internal security, the NSC meets twice monthly. Its meetings are chaired by the president or, in his or her absence, by the prime minister.

In the view of one Turkish observer, the NSC has not been particularly successful as a forum for the armed forces and the government to debate and agree on security policies. At the meetings, the military speaks with a single voice, having worked out differences beforehand. Such unanimity is not conducive to an open dialogue, yet the military is disappointed when it fails to elicit concrete responses from the civilian leadership. Civilians sometimes have found the military insensitive to the government's problems in dealing with the bureaucracy, parliament, and the public when facing difficult decisions.

The constitution designates the chief of the General Staff as the commander of the armed forces. In wartime that officer also exercises the duties of commander in chief on behalf of the president. The chief of the General Staff is appointed by the president upon nomination by the Council of Ministers and is responsible to the prime minister in the exercise of his duties. In early 1995, the chief of the General Staff was General Ismail Hakki Karadayi, who was appointed in August 1994. The extensive authority of the Turkish chief of the General Staff contrasts strikingly with that of his counterparts in most NATO countries. He holds one of the highest positions in the government after the prime minister and is chosen strictly on the basis of seniority. As of 1994, the chief of the General Staff had always been an army officer, although an air force or naval officer might also be selected.

By law the chief of the General Staff determines the principles and policies of major programs concerned with operations, training, intelligence, and logistics. His views must be sought with respect to the military implications of proposed international treaties. He has the final say in the allocation of the military budget among programs and service branches.

The General Staff, a prestigious body that implements the decisions and guidance of the chief of the General Staff, in effect constitutes a joint headquarters with authority over the commanders of the service branches. It thus differs materially from the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, who act as the immediate military staff of the secretary of defense, subject to the latter's authority and direction, and whose chair functions as presiding officer and spokesperson for the service commanders. The Turkish General Staff headquarters is administered by the deputy chief of the General Staff, who is responsible for preparing directives representing orders emanating from the General Staff, and for assuring their proper implementation.

The General Staff organization follows the same pattern as the United States system in most respects. Its departments are J-1 (personnel, including appointments and promotions), J-2 (internal and foreign intelligence), J-3 (operations, training, organization, war planning, and exercises), J-4 (logistics), J-5 (strategic-military policies, threat planning, targeting, budget allocations, and military agreements), J-6 (communications and electronics), and J-7 (studies of military history and strategy). The Turkish representative to NATO and the Turkish military representative to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) are both attached to the office of the deputy chief of the General Staff.

A separate body, the Supreme Military Council, consists of eighteen members, including the prime minister as chair, the chief of the General Staff as vice chair, the minister of national defense, the three service commanders, and other commanders of four-star rank. All promotions and other appointments to higher military positions are decided in this council, as are many internal policy matters affecting the military services. In practice, the chief of the General Staff initiates the appointments of service chiefs after consulting the civilian leadership and promotions to general rank after consulting the respective service chiefs.

The Ministry of National Defense executes defense policies and programs determined by the chief of the General Staff with respect to conscription, procurement of weapons and equipment, logistical needs, and other services such as health care, construction, infrastructure, and finances and auditing. The ministry compiles, coordinates, and steers the annual budget request through the National Assembly. The ministry is responsible for negotiating with other countries for military assistance and arms supplies but is not involved in discussions concerning the allocation of foreign aid among the service branches. The Ministry of National Defense reflects lesser civilian influence than its United States counterpart; many ministry staff officers are military officers, and the undersecretary of national defense is a general on active duty.

Data as of January 1995

Last Updated: January 1995

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Turkey was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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