ANKARA – Turkish Daily News
For many in Ankara, Turkey's new top commander is one of the most intellectual generals within the military, something he proved during his tenure as land forces commander from 2006 to the present.
While he was commanding his troops to eliminate terrorists inside and outside of the country's borders, Gen. İlker Başbuğ was also pondering on the ways to stop young Kurdish boys joining the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. �It's a vicious circle,� he was quoted as saying.
He had proposed taking social and economic steps to make life better in the southeastern region of Anatolia, one of the country's poorest regions, in order to stop youngsters from choosing to join the PKK. �We cannot fully eliminate terrorism through solely military means,� he said, in an indirect call to politicians to do more for the development of the region.
Under his command, Turkish troops launched the first cross-border ground operation into northern Iraq in years, seriously damaging the terrorists' hideouts in the region. More air operations against the PKK are expected during Başbuğ's tenure, but it is not yet certain whether the military will ask for the extension of parliamentary authorization for cross-border operations, as the current authorization will expire November 17.
What has led to Başbuğ's reputation as a �hawk� is his support for the secular order of the country. Even though he kept silent in recent months when the country was tensely discussing a possible verdict by the top court to close the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, Başbuğ is known to be a close follower of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's reforms. His description of �cool general,� on the other hand, stems from the top commander's personality, as he hardly loses control even in very hard times.
Başbuğ was born in Afyon on April 29, 1943 to an immigrant family from Bitola, known as Manastır during the Ottoman Empire. He started his military career in 1957.
Başbuğ stands out for his overseas experience. He attended the Royal Military Academy of England and the NATO Defense College. He served as an intelligence officer at NATO International Military Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. Having been promoted to the rank of general, he served as intelligence plans chief at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, or SHAPE, and as chief of National Military Representation, or NMR, in Mons, Belgium.
He is married to Sevil Başbuğ, who is also the daughter of an army officer, and has two children. Başbuğ is fluent in English and studies sociology and international diplomacy. He is also interested in movies and theatre.