Keeping Turkey’s forces occupied aboard has a number of advantages for Erdogan

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Shrapnel of the troubled relationship between the civilian-turned-general Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his military have shattered many countries in the Middle East. The failed military coup of July 2016 re-energised the most dangerous of Erdogan’s obsessions – the fear that he will be pushed out of power by the military.

The massive purge in the army’s ranks following the failed putsch was aimed at repositioning the army’s role in Turkish political life, and in doing so, neutering it as a threat to the presidency. Having cleaned up the forces from all followers of Fethullah Gulen and his other opponents, Erdogan is now on a mission to reshape the military in his own image.

In recent years, the Turkish president has allowed Islamist allies of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) to tighten their grip on critical military posts. The purge was not only a process of sidelining officers with different political leanings but an attempt to Islamise the army too.

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