Military service is viewed as a patriotic duty by the majority of Turkish citizens but the need for a professional army apparently outweighs the fervor of conscripts. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Sunday that compulsory military service would be shortened to six months and those willing to continue, would be able to serve another six months. He also said paid military service that enables anyone to pay a certain fee to skip the compulsory 12-month military service (or six months for university graduates) and serve only for 21 days, will be made permanent.
The announcement comes amid a debate on whether conscription is still necessary as the fight against terrorism and other threats necessitate recruitment of professionals rather than rookies serving for a short time.
Turkey already decreased the number of conscripts especially in risky areas where counterterrorism operations are being conducted and started hiring "contract officers" and "privates" to aid career officers in risky operations and defense of the borders.
For a nation priding itself in being a "military nation," this change can be regarded as abandoning ideals of the past. However, it is understandable for those who completed their military service occupied with menial tasks far from where elite commandos of the arm
For proponents of the paid military service which was introduced again last year after a long time since its first application, less time spent in conscription means more opportunity for their careers. Paid military service supporters claim that spending 12 or six months in the army is a major obstacle to advance their careers as military service is required to be completed for many in their twenties.
Shortening the conscription time will also help reduce a backlog of potential conscripts. Authorities announced last year that there were more than 5 million people eligible for conscription but the army needed only 350,000 people.