Turkey has begun deploying troops to Libya for “coordination and stability,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said, revealing that Ankara will establish an operational center in the country.
The Turkish military has already started moving “slowly” towards Libya, Erdogan revealed late on Sunday. The scope of Ankara’s involvement in the years-long conflict is still unknown.
The deployment of Turkish troops was greenlighted by the country’s parliament on Thursday. The move followed a request for military assistance by Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj who heads the UN-backed, Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA). The GNA is entangled in a years-long conflict with another body claiming to be the real government of the shattered country – the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR).
The HoR is supported by a major military force – the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA), led by strongman Khalifa Haftar. The LNA launched a large assault against the GNA early in 2019, reaching the outskirts of Tripoli but failing to actually storm the capital. The offensive seemingly picked up pace back in December, when Haftar announced a new push for the capital.
Turkey’s decision has drawn the ire of the GNA’s rivals – Haftar declared ‘jihad’ against Turkey, vowing to throw the “invaders” out of the country. The HoR stuck with more conventional diplomatic actions, officially cutting all ties with Ankara and accusing the rival PM of treason.
Turkey is playing a high-stakes game in Libya with a very little chance to success, Ayo Johnson, journalist and the founder of Viewpoint Africa, told RT, noting that the promise of control over Libya’s vast oil and natural gas resources is too tempting for Ankara to not give it a shot even though Haftar “has the swing of the pendulum” and can take Tripoli “at a moment’s notice.”
“When you are talking about oil, when you talking about natural gas, the sort of volume the largest we’ve seen on the African continent, you can understand why so many actors and players are at play.”
Although the US has not openly sided with either of the two rival Libyan governments, urging all parties to show restraint and sounding alarm over Russia’s growing influence in the region, Johnson said he believes that the Turkish offensive comes handy to the US.
“I understand from the sources I’ve been in contact with that they are already supporting the Turkish effort to be in Libya just to make sure that Russians and other supportive factions on the other side do not take claim to that land in any shape or form,” Johnson said.
Still, he said he believes that odds that the GNA prevails are miniscule, despite its being backed by the UN. “I think [GNA PM Fayez Mustafa] al-Sarraj has a factional opportunity of winning, but it’s going to be very difficult…I cannot see physically how, which is why he has been propped up and supported by the Turks.”