AKP, MHP leaders blast Turkey’s former chief of staff İlker Başbuğ over Afrin remarks

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The leaders of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have both slammed former Turkish Chief of General Staff İlker Başbuğ over his recent statements saying the ongoing military operation in Afrin should “not be used for domestic political purposes.”

“It’s unfortunate to hear such a thing from a chief of general staff. Is it his job to argue that [the operation] is being used a political tool? Shame on him. What’s necessary will be done,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, chair of the AKP, told reporters after his weekly address to the AKP parliamentary group on Feb. 13.

Başbuğ served as Turkey’s chief of general staff from 2008 to 2010. In 2012 he was arrested on terror charges as part of a sprawling and now-infamous conspiracy, spending 26 months in prison. It was subsequently revealed that his arrest was one of many plotted by former judicial officials loyal to the network of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, later believed to have been behind the July 2016 coup attempt.

Speaking in an interview last week, Başbuğ had warned of politicizing the ongoing “Operation Olive Branch” in the northern Syrian district of Afrin.

“Our soldiers are fighting and being killed in Afrin. Now is not the time to discuss politics when our soldiers are fighting and being killed,” he said.

Speaking before Erdoğan on the morning of Feb. 13, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli also reserved harsh words for Turkey’s former chief of general staff.

“Those who argue that our party is making political calculations over the Afrin operation have no character,” Bahçeli said, calling on Başbuğ to “explain who exactly is using Turley’s anti-terror fight for political purposes.”

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