CEFTUS and RUSI Joint Forum: ‘Turkish Civil-Military Relations and the Fight against Terrorism’

22 May 2017,


The Centre for Turkey Studies (CEFTUS) in partnership with the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) organised an exclusive event with Dr Metin Gurcan on 22 May 2017. 

The event was kindly chaired by Dr Francesco F. Milan, Teaching Fellow at the Defence Studies Department, King’s College London/Joint Services Command and Staff College.

Dr Gurcan characterised Turkey as a politically-divided country in a liquid security environment. He spoke about the multi-faceted threat faced by Turkey currently, noting that it had three distinct enemies, the PKK, FETO and extremist Salafi groups. Dr Gurcan recommended taking different approaches to tackling each threat. He noted that Turkey’s security forces had increased their operations against extremist Salafi groups in 2017.

Dr Gurcan explained that Turkey was going through a process of civilianisation of its military, increasing civilian oversight and management in the wake of last year’s attempted coup d’état. He identified some of the difficulties in this process and outlined the two competing approaches to implementing civilianisation, namely transferring power to the centre or diffusing power.

The changing landscape in Syria and divisions within the PKK were areas that Dr Gurcan saw as worth paying attention to in the near future. Dr Gurcan went on to provide in-depth answers to a number of questions from the audience.


Speaker Biographies

Dr Metin Gurcan is a columnist for the Washington-based Al Monitor News Agency writing about security related issues and is a regular contributor to the Turkish T24 News Agency.

After graduating from the Turkish War Academy in 1998 with distinction, Dr Gurcan joined the Turkish Special Forces and served in the Southeast of Turkey, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Kosovo and Northern Iraq as a team commander, military adviser, and liaison officer between 2000 and 2008. In 2010, Dr Gurcan obtained an MA degree in Security Studies from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey with a thesis analyzing the center-periphery relationship between Baghdad and Iraqi Kurds with a focus on Kirkuk.

From 2010 to 2014, Dr Gurcan worked as an analyst officer at the Turkish General Staff. After resigning from the military in 2015, Dr Gurcan obtained his PhD from the Department of Political Science of Bilkent University in 2016 with a dissertation entitled ‘Opening the Blackbox: The Transformation of the Turkish Military’.

In 2014, Dr Gurcan worked as a visiting research fellow at Oxford University’s Changing Character of War (CCW) Program, and conducted research about the changing nature of conflict and counterinsurgency (COIN) efforts in tribal and Muslim settings. Dr Gurcan has been published extensively in Turkish and foreign academic journals such as Turkish Studies, Small Wars Journal and Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict, on issues such as perceptions on the changing nature of warfare, terrorism, Turkish civil-military relations, military history and Turkish foreign policy. Gurcan’s first book entitled ‘The Gallipoli Campaign:The Turkish Perspective’ and co-edited with  Prof. Robert Johnson of Oxford University was published by Routledge in April 2016. His second book titled “What Went Wrong in Afghanistan? Understanding Counter-insurgency in Tribalized Rural Muslim Environments” presenting a critique of COIN efforts in Afghanistan was published by Helion & Company in June 2016.

Dr Francesco F. Milan is a Teaching Fellow at the Defence Studies Department, King’s College London/Joint Services Command and Staff College. His doctoral dissertation (War Studies, King’s College London) focused on the evolution of Turkish civil-military relations. Dr Milan has written extensively on Turkey’s security issues, and has recently published “Turkey: What Hides Behind a Failed Coup Attempt” on The RUSI Journal.