Erdogan: Turkish Soldiers Gradually Being Deployed to Libya

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced that Turkish soldiers to be gradually deployed to Libya. Turkish military units will begin moving into Libya to support the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, one of the two opposing governments in the country. This decision came after Turkey received a request for military support from Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of GNA; Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Russia have all lent their support to this rival government, which has caused the GNA to seek help from countries like Turkey. According to the New York Times, as of now, the current plan is to deploy these Turkish troops for just a year to bolster the government in Tripoli and return to a peaceful political process.

Erdogan told CNN that Turkish troops would establish an operations center that would focus on coordination and training of Libyan troops. He added that the first round of troops have already begun to gradually head out but a larger concentration would follow later. Erdogan also said, “It is to keep them on their feet and let them come out of it with victory and have their own land…The actual aim of this decision that the Grand National Assembly of Turkey has taken is to help secure a ceasefire, and help return to the political process.” The Turkish president also emphasized that Turkish soldiers would not be doing the fighting; they would be training Libyan and other fighting sources, such as Syrians. He made it clear that Turkey’s goal was “not to fight,” but “to support the legitimate government and avoid a humanitarian tragedy.”

In late November of 2019, Turkey and the GNA signed security and maritime agreements. This cleared the way for current Turkish troop deployment, but also angered Mediterranean countries such as Greece who have long sought to exploit the oil markets in this region. Last week, Libya’s eastern government, the Libyan National Army, voted against the deals their western counterpart government had made with Turkey. Later that same day, at least 30 people were killed and another 33 were injured in an attack on a military academy in Tripoli. This attack was a clear sign of a worsening situation and President Erdogan condemned the attack while calling for an immediate ceasefire.

Prior to 2011, Libya was a prosperous and fairly successful state. However, after the NATO-led uprising in 2011 that toppled Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, the country has become a failed state enveloped in chaos. Ever since 2014, Libya has been split into eastern and western governments. The GNA currently controls western Libya and its counterpart in the East, the Libyan National Army, controls the oil fields. Last week, General Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the Libyan National Army, called upon all Libyan citizens to gather arms and prepare to fight in response to Turkey’s troop deployment. He stated, “We accept the challenge and declare jihad and a call to arms,” in a televised address. Additionally, he declared all Libyans should bear arms, “men and women, soldiers and civilians, to defend our land and our honour.”

It still is not quite clear what President Erdogan intends to do to bring peace or even a ceasefire to Libya. All statements made on the troops deployment state the intended goals, but make to mention to Turkey’s actual plans besides a mention of setting up an operations center to train Libyan troops. Again, the main plan is to support and bolster the GNA; however, the question of how Erdogan exactly intends to do that remains unanswered. What is clear is that the violence, chaos, and instability in Libya has gone on far too long and something of a peace process must return to Libya.