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Turkey: professionalisation of the military, but with conscription

Today's Zaman reported on 26 May that the Turkish military is proposing a far-reaching modernisation of the Turkish military, but will maintain conscription. The proposed new bill, which has been forwarded to the Ministry of Defence for review, does not do away with compulsory military service, but does introduce a mixed system made up of both professional and conscripted army units.

If the bill passes, university graduates, who currently are required to serve a short-term national service of six months, will have to serve for 12 months. The service duration for males who have not graduated from a higher-education institution will remain 15 months.

The draft bill leaves all tasks requiring specialisation to professional soldiers, but it is still treated as a mixed system because it relies on compulsory conscripts in meeting the military's need for soldiers in other areas. The professionalisation of specialised tasks is the continuation of a 2007 regulation issued by the General Staff which transformed six brigades under the Gendarmerie and the Land Forces commands to completely professional units (see also DefenseNews, 19 May 2008).
The Turkish military, which has traditionally recruited conscripts to meet its demand for doctors, will be hiring doctors on a contract basis from now on. The new draft also makes it more difficult for specialised personnel to leave the army. Officers wishing to resign arbitrarily will have to pay a fee to leave.

Presently, the Turkish military includes about 10,000 professional soldiers in ranger units for the fight against "terrorism". The plan is to increase the number of professional soldiers to 40,000. According to Today's Zaman, "according to the new draft, first class privates who join the fight against terrorism will have to at least have a high school degree. These individuals will have a monthly salary of TL 1,500, which will go to as high as TL 2,500 with compensation and benefits. The number of personnel in the Special Forces Command, currently at 5,000, will first be increased to 7,000 and then to 10,000. To serve in anti-terrorism activities, troops here will have to have undergone at least one and a half years of basic training. The Special Forces Command will set up four stations in the cities of Batman, Siirt, Şırnak and Tunceli to better coordinate anti-terrorism efforts.
The salaries of professional troops in the Special Forces Command will range between TL 1,600 and TL 3,500."

At a press conference held on April 29, Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ stated that the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) were having difficulty recruiting, Başbuğ said the military is currently able to meet only about 65 percent of its need for troops.

Sources: Today's Zaman: Military will not abandon draft while transforming into professional army, 26 May 2009, DefenseNews: Turkey Reworks Commando Forces for Counterinsurgency, 19 May 2008, War Resisters' International: Country report and updates: Turkey, 23 October 2008

Veröffentlicht in CO-Update, June 2009, No. 48