The Turkish Army is one of the branches of the Turkish Armed Forces. It is currently the second largest army associated with NATO. The army is considered to be the pre-eminent force among the three Turkish armed services and it has been customary for the position of Chief of the Turkish General Staff to be filled by individuals who have previously commanded the army.
The Turkish Army played an important role during the cold war, playing a defensive role particularly along the Caucasus frontier. The army also participated, as a member of the UN, in the Korean War.
In 1974, the army participated in the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, and the country still maintains troops on the island today. The Turkish Army took part in two main operations on Cyprus in 19974. The first, Attila 1, on July 20th, was an amphibious infantry assault that established a base on the island. The second, which began on August 14th, involved an all out attack by the Turkish Army, which had been building up their forces on the island for weeks. The Turkish Army took over 37 percent of the island in just two days, expanding their initial hold on the island, and resulting in the current division of Cyprus. The Cyprus Turkish Peace Force today consists of approximately 30,000 people, although the number of troops stationed on the island has varied over time.
Other engagements in which the Turkish Army has played a part are UNOSOM II, KFOR, ISAF and the Turkey/PKK Conflict, between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a militant separatist group seeking Kurdish independence.
The Turkish Army has approximately 402,000 active personnel. It is claimed that the Turkish Army can deploy a Corps consisting of 50,000 men at short notice to take part in joint operations, and that it also has the capability to conduct an air assault operation with up to six battalions being lifted at a time.
The modernization of the Turkish Army which began towards the end of the 20th century aims to create a military force that will become increasingly self-sufficient, relieving Turkey of its dependence on foreign military equipment and technology. As the process of modernization continues, it has been suggested that the number of troops will begin to decline, but that the capability of the force as a whole will continue to be increased. As part of the Forces 2014 project, the forces will shrink by between 20 and 30 percent, but will be equipped with the best modern arms and technology.
The Leopard 2A4 and M60T are the primary battle tanks of the Turkish Army. In addition, the army has approximately 750 M60 Pattons and 400 Leopard 1s, as well as numerous older vehicles, including over 2800 upgraded M48 Pattons. Most of these older vehicles are now used for other purposes, with only 1300 being stored as reserve battle tanks. The army hopes to add a thousand Turkish built MITUP Atlay main battle tanks, in four batches of 250 vehicles each.
The Commander in Chief of the Turkish Army is the President of Turkey. The current President is Abdullah Gul.
The Chief of General Staff in command of all three of the Turkish Armed Forces. The current chief is Isik Kosaner. During peacetime, the Chief of General Staff serves as Commander and reports to the Turkish Prime Minister. During wartime, the Chief of General Staff takes on the role of Commander in Chief from the Turkish President.
The Army Commander is in command of the Turkish Army. The current commander of the Turkish Army is General Erdal Ceylanoglu.
The Turkish Army has played a part in a number on UN and NATO operations. It was one of the forces that took part in the UN Operation in Somalia II, which aimed to enable humanitarian intervention to proceed in Somalia. The Turkish Army has also worked as part of the NATO led Kosovo Force or KFOR, which is responsible for peacekeeping in Kosovo. The Turkish Army has also played a role in the International Security Assistance Force or ISAF, another NATO led force which in involved in security operations in Afghanistan. As one of the largest standing armies from any of the participants in NATO, Turkey’s army holds an important position in the world.