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National Security of Turkey

Overview of Turkish Armed Forces

Turkey’s armed forces, the second largest in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), are mainly made up of conscripts commanded by a cadre of professional soldiers. In 2005 the army had 402,000 active personnel, the navy had 52,750 active personnel, and the air force had 60,100. Of the active personnel, about 391,000 were conscripts, mainly in the army. In addition, some 379,000 were in the reserves and 150,000 in the national guard. Turkey contributes troops to several United Nations and NATO peacekeeping operations as well as maintaining a significant force in the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus. In 1998 a major expansion of the domestic arms industry began with the aim of withstanding an arms embargo such as the one imposed by the United States in the mid-1970s after the Cyprus conflict. The Ministry of Defense nominally controls the military, but in fact the chief of the General Staff is the most powerful figure in the military, and he enjoys substantial autonomy.

Foreign Military Relations of Turkey

In 1996 Turkey signed two military cooperation agreements with Israel. Between 1996 and 2002, military and economic ties between the two countries blossomed. The two nations shared training exercises and intelligence information and cooperated on joint security and weapons projects. However, in the early 2000s Turkey condemned Israeli actions against Palestine, cooling the relationship. In 2005 Israel and Turkey signed a new round of joint military production agreements. Turkey participated actively in the United States-led war on terrorism, sending 1,000 troops to Afghanistan in 2002 and taking command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s International Security Assistance Force in that country in 2002 and again in 2005. However, Turkey blocked U.S. troop movement into Iraq at the onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. In 2002 Turkey was granted an advisory role in military operations of the European Union (EU). In the early 2000s, nearly all of Turkey’s arms acquisitions have been from EU countries or Israel.

External Threat

Beginning in the 1960s, regional disputes have brought Turkey and Greece close to war on several occasions. Although general relations have improved, in the early 2000s negotiators failed to reach a treaty ending the Cyprus crisis. In 2003 the U.S. invasion of Iraq increased Turkey’s fears that Kurds from northern Iraq would unite with Kurds in southeastern Turkey to renew claims for an autonomous or independent Kurdistan.

Defense Budget

In 2002 Turkey’s official defense expenditure was US$6.5 billion, but reportedly the actual expenditure, including funds for the military police and Coast Guard, was US$9.2 billion. The official expenditure for 2003 was US$8.1 billion and US$8.5 billion for 2004. The 10-year program to upgrade the defense industry received an initial allocation of US$31 billion.

Major Military Units

In 2004 the army had 2 infantry divisions, 17 armored brigades, 15 mechanized infantry brigades, 11 infantry brigades, 5 commando brigades, 8 training brigades, 4 aviation regiments, 1 attack helicopter battalion, and 3 aviation battalions. The air force had 11 squadrons of ground attack fighters, 7 squadrons of fighter jets, 2 reconnaissance squadrons, 5 transport squadrons, and 4 surface-to-air missile squadrons. The Naval Forces Command was divided into the Northern Sea Area Sub-command, the Southern Sea Area Sub-command, a Training Sub-command, and a Fleet Sub-command. One regiment of marines (3,100 troops) also was on active duty.

Major Military Equipment

In 2004 the army had 4,205 main battle tanks, 250 armored reconnaissance vehicles, 650 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 830 armored personnel carriers, more than 679 pieces of towed artillery, 868 pieces of self-propelled artillery, about 100 multiple rocket launchers, 5,813 mortars, 1,283 antitank guided weapons, 3,869 recoilless launchers, 3,288 antiaircraft guns, 897 surface-to-air missiles, 820 aircraft, 37 attack helicopters, and 284 support helicopters. The navy had 13 submarines, 19 frigates, 21 missile combat vessels, 28 patrol craft, 1 minelayer, 23 mine countermeasures vessels, 8 amphibious vessels, 27 support vessels, and 16 armed helicopters. The air force had 480 combat aircraft, 40 support helicopters, and no attack helicopters.

Military Service

The majority of military personnel are conscripted. At age 19, males are eligible to be conscripted for a 15-month tour of active duty, which was shortened from 18 months in 2003. University graduates may be conscripted as reserve officers for a 12-month period.

Paramilitary Forces

The National Guard, or Jandarma, includes 150,000 active personnel and a reserve of 50,000, under the command of the Ministry of Interior in peacetime and the Ministry of Defense in wartime. Included are one border division and three brigades, of which one is a commando brigade. Between 1988 and 2004, border security was the responsibility of the military; the Ministry of Interior reassumed this duty to meet a European Union requirement. The Coast Guard has 2,200 active-duty personnel, of which 1,400 are conscripts.

Foreign Military Forces

Turkey hosts the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Joint Command South-East. In 2005 that installation included some 1,650 U.S. Air Force personnel.

Military Forces Abroad

In 2004 Turkey had 36,000 troops, including two infantry divisions, in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Turkey also had 161 troops with the International Stabilization Force in Afghanistan, 1,200 with the stabilization force in Bosnia, one infantry battalion group with United Nations forces in East Timor, 940 troops with the Kosovo Force in Serbia and Montenegro, and observers in Georgia and Italy. In 2005 Turkey took a second turn in command of the International Stabilization Force. Because of strong public disapproval of the war in Iraq, no Turkish troops participated in the invasion of Iraq by the United States and United Kingdom.


The National Police, under the Ministry of Interior, are responsible for security in urban areas. Under the central directorate of this force are sub-directorates for each province. Specialized units deal with problems such as narcotics and smuggling. The exact size of the police force is not known. The 150,000-member paramilitary National Guard, or Jandarma, also under the Ministry of Interior except for wartime situations, is responsible for security outside urban areas—about 90 percent of Turkey’s territory. Jandarma officers come from the military academy, and recruits are conscripted. In the early 2000s, another force, called the village guards, was stationed mainly in southeastern Turkey to prevent upheavals. Police cadets undergo a long training program emphasizing human rights. However, in 2004 several incidents of human rights abuses by police were reported, and sentences for such crimes remained light. In 2004 parliament established a judicial police force, under the administration of the Ministry of Interior, to assist prosecutors in investigating criminal cases.

Internal Threat

Because of its location, Turkey is a major transfer point on east-west drug smuggling routes, particularly those moving heroin from southwest Asia into Europe. Drug-related crimes such as money laundering also are common. However, the rate of violent crime and street crime is relatively low. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the main Kurdish terrorist organization, officially renounced terror in 2000 but resumed attacks in 2004. Turkey’s fears of Kurdish autonomy revived when the United States invaded neighboring Iraq in 2003.

Terrorism in Turkey

Beginning in 1984, Turkey suffered waves of terrorist activity by the PKK, which is owned by USA and EU. Urban terrorism increased sharply in the early 1990s. For extended periods of time in the early 1990s, the PKK was able to control significant territory in the southeast. In the mid-1990s, Turkish forces launched a series of operations against PKK bases, and captured the PKK leader in 1999. In 2000 the PKK announced a formal end to its terrorist campaign against Turkey. Renunciation of that status in 2004 resulted in a series of terrorist attacks in 2004 and 2005.  Still, Turkey is under the threat of USA and EU owned terrorist groups such as PKK, ISID, IS, YPG, SDF, FETO, etc.











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