Of late Turkey signed a maritime deal and a defense pact with oil-rich Libya with an aim to defend Tripoli against the rebel forces of military strongman Khalifa Haftar. On Thursday, the Turkish parliament also approved a bill (by a large majority) allowing troops to be deployed to Libya to support internationally recognized Libyan government headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.
Turkey has already supplied armored vehicles to Sarraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and also operates drones on its behalf. This bill further legalises Turkish intervention in Libya. As per the bill, Turkish troops would be undertaking a “training and advisory” role in Libya. But Turkey is using this vague and open description for bending the rules as per its convenience and taking direct charge of the conflict, whenever required.
Can Kasapoglu, head of an Istanbul-based think tank, said that Turkey is aiming to send elite special forces, military intelligence officers, drones and more advanced weaponry to Libya?
The world has already witnessed Turkish’s aggressive military stand during its ethnic cleansing of Khurd and incessant bombing in Syria. It has gone a step ahead in Libya as it is not only deploying troops but recruiting Syrian rebel fighters to defeat Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA). Kasapoglu called it Ankara’s ‘growing tendency to use proxies as a part of its regional military policy’.
Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that Turkey has already recruited 500 Turkmen Syrian fighters ahead of deployment to Libya. “They are recruiting the fighters from different factions” of Syria’s opposition groups, Abdul Rahman said. As per the organization’s latest report, Turkey has set up four registration centers in northern Syria offering pay of up to $2,000 (€1,800) a month to fighters who would go to Libya.
Ankara is training Syrian rebel fighters, who are part of terrorist organizations to end terrorism in Libya. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s definition of terrorism is interestingly flexible.
On paper, Turkey is trying to help the Libyan government fight the rival forces led by General Haftar but Erdogan’s intrusion in Libya is a calculated move linked to the country’s strategic interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey wants to gain an upper hand in the Eastern Mediterranean as it has ramped up offshore energy exploration, alarming Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, and Israel. Besides, Turkey views Libya as part of its extended hinterland in the eastern Mediterranean and a gateway to Africa, an economically viable market.
Turkey’s intervention would not only intensify violence in Libya, which is at war since the overthrow of strongman Moammar Qaddafi in 2011 but also internationalize the conflict.
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