July 23 2004
Turkey to scrap four army brigades — newspaper
23 Jul 2004 13:24:08 GMT
ANKARA, July 23 (Reuters) – Turkey’s military General Staff plans to
abolish four brigades, cutting the size of NATO’s second biggest army
by 18,000 in a drive to improve efficiency and flexibility, the
Referans daily said on Friday.
Those to be scrapped are the 33rd armoured brigade near the Bulgarian
and Greek borders, the 7th mechanised brigade on the Armenian border,
the 10th infantry brigade on the Iranian border and the ninth
armoured division in central Anatolia, it said.
The report said the General Staff also aimed to scrap its Aegean army
next year in a move seen as underlining much-improved ties with
Greece, a NATO ally but traditional rival with which Turkey almost
went to war as recently as 1996.
The General Staff declined to comment on the report.
The cuts could save cash-strapped Turkey about 65 trillion Turkish
lira ($44.29 million), the report said, adding that they had been
authorised by the head of the General Staff, General Hilmi Ozkok.
The report, written by Lale Sariibrahimoglu, who is also Turkey
correspondent for the respected British-based Jane’s Defence Weekly,
said Ozkok had initially intended a more radical shakeup, slashing
the land forces from 400,000 to 280,000. Turkey’s Defence Ministry
statistics show Turkey’s defence budget for 2004 stood at 9,880
trillion lira, about 3.4 percent of gross national product (GNP).
But these figures do not include substantial extra-budgetary funds,
for example, an estimated 2,400 trillion lira allocated to the
gendarmerie, or military police, and the coast guard.
Under reforms sought by the European Union, which Turkey aims to
join, Turkey recently agreed to allow full parliamentary scrutiny of
all future military spending.
The armed forces have a special place in Turkish society and see
themselves as the ultimate guardian of the country’s secular
democracy, but they are having to accept a big reduction in their
political influence as Turkey moves closer to the EU.
Turkey has a total of 800,200 people serving in its armed forces, the
bulk of them conscripts, making it second in size only to the United
States in the 26-nation NATO alliance. ($1=1467500 Turkish Lira)