Turkey’s military becoming an expeditionary force – analyst

The Turkish military is fast becoming an expeditionary force, acting in support of Ankara’s geopolitical worldview, an analyst writing for the Jamestown Foundation said.

Turkey’s defence policy now extends well beyond its borders – with combat forces or military personnel stationed in countries from Syria, to Libya, northern Iraq, Qatar, and Somalia, analyst Can Kasapoğlu said. 

He said that Turkey’s “ambitious strategic posture is centred on three pivots”: a naval transformation from its historic role as coastal deterrent towards a force that can operate globally; expeditionary warfare, typically alongside proxies, in various battlefields; and expanding forward military bases in zones of Turkish influence. 

Kasapoğlu also said that Turkey now relies on a stronger defence industry than in the past, and that its ideology has changed, with implications for its geopolitical worldview, as the ultra-secularist military elite of the 1990s has been replaced by those loyal to the conservative ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“Consequently, for example, the Turkish-Israeli military cooperation gave way to the Turkey-Qatar defence partnership,” he said. 

Turkey’s growing military ambitions also come with risks, Kasapoğlu said. 

“Forward-bases offer lucrative targets to hostile intentions, an expeditionary military posture means more burden on defence economics, and there is always the risk of getting overstretched in endless hybrid and proxy wars, among many other challenges,” he said.

Ankara’s military policy today “is not a transactional one,” he said. “Rather, its ‘military activism’, is there to stay.”