Left Menu
Development News Edition

ANALYSIS-Turkish support for Tripoli could "rebalance forces" in Libya

Reuters | Updated: 08-01-2020 02:26 IST | Created: 08-01-2020 02:26 IST
ANALYSIS-Turkish support for Tripoli could "rebalance forces" in Libya

The planned arrival of Turkish military advisers in Libya should bolster the internationally recognised government, but may not be enough to turn the tide of a conflict in which eastern-based forces have the upper hand thanks to foreign support.

Turkey's decision to send the advisers and technical experts responded to a request by Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj's Government of National Accord (GNA), which Ankara backs against forces allied to veteran commander Khalifa Haftar. Turkey has already provided drones and armoured vehicles for the defence of the capital, Tripoli, which helped quickly stall the offensive launched by Haftar's forces nine months ago.

But Turkish backing has often been outweighed by air power from the United Arab Emirates in support of Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), and by a technological and frontline edge provided by Russian military contractors since September, officials, diplomats and analysts say. "The decision by the GNA to request military support from Turkey follows a dangerous escalation in the conflict from Haftar and his backers, including bringing in Russian mercenaries," GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha said in a statement to Reuters.

On Monday, the LNA advanced into Sirte, a strategic city in the centre of Libya's Mediterranean coastline, and fighting has increased around Tripoli in recent weeks. This has heightened pressure on GNA forces, which two sources close to those forces said had been struggling against missile systems being used to bring down drones and laser-guided shells thought to have been introduced by Russian contractors.

The GNA's drone fleet has also been depleted by attacks on airports and air bases in Tripoli and the city of Misrata, northwest of Sirte. Turkish officials have indicated that any deployment will not involve troops but that Turkey has been considering sending Syrian rebels. A source in the Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army said some fighters had already signed up as guards.

"What this will bring above all is a rebalancing of forces," said Arnaud Delalande, an independent defence consultant and Libya expert. "In particular it could bring air defence, which could be jamming systems, but also coordination of troops on the ground." RUSSIAN AND TURKISH COOPERATION

Manoeuvring in Libya by Russia and Turkey, whose presidents meet in Turkey on Wednesday, has overshadowed European efforts to revive a U.N.-led peace process. Although Turkey and Russia have generally been on opposing sides in Syria's civil war, they have strengthened economic and military ties recently. They now cooperate in northeast Syria, where they mount joint patrols, and Ankara bought Russian missile defence systems last year despite opposition in Washington.

Ankara and Moscow want to protect their strategic interests in Libya, where they lost lucrative contracts in 2011 after a NATO-backed uprising, and in the wider east Mediterranean region. The two countries are unlikely to clash directly, with Ankara seeking leverage to negotiate over offshore gas drilling rights after signing military and maritime accords with the GNA in November.

"In Libya, Ankara's end game is not to help Tripoli win the conflict, which is not realistic. It is to create a stalemate and political negotiations that preserve its maritime demarcation deal," said Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat who heads the Istanbul-based Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies think tank. A senior Turkish official told Reuters: "Turkey is in close contact with Russia to prevent conflict. This will continue."

Russia could be eyeing a long-term goal of having a naval base in eastern Libya, said Jalel Harchaoui, a research fellow with the Clingendael Institute think tank in The Hague. "Russia is presented with a golden opportunity to make its presence in eastern Libya more entrenched," he said.

Ankara and Moscow are filling a gap left by U.S. disengagement in Libya under President Donald Trump and there are divisions among European states over Libya. "I think the Europeans are completely left out in the cold here," said Harchaoui. "They're scrambling."

(Additional reporting by Orhan Coskun in Ankara and Jonathan Spicer in Istanbul, Editing by Timothy Heritage)


TRENDING

OPINION / BLOG / INTERVIEW

Uganda COVID-19 response: Was off to a good start but reopening dwindled prospects

Uganda has shown success in using health information to enhance efficiency of disease surveillance, reporting and monitoring. The success, however, has critical challenges confronting it as the country resumes normal activities....

New farm bills in India: Focusing on farms or farmers?

... ...

Kenya’s COVID-19 response: Chaos amid lack of information

Confusing numbers and scanty information on how effective curfews and lockdowns have been in breaking transmission have amplified coordination and planning challenges in Kenyas response to COVID-19. Without accurate data, it is impossible t...

Farkhad Akhmedov: Calculating the price of impunity from the law

In insistences such as the battle over the Luna, Akhmedov has resorted to extreme legal machinations to subvert the High Courts decision and keep his assets from being seized. ...

Videos

Latest News

SuspendedIAS officer M Sivasankar taken into custody by ED in Kerala gold smuggling case, say official sources.

SuspendedIAS officer M Sivasankar taken into custody by ED in Kerala gold smuggling case, say official sources....

IPL 13: Ganguly not surprised by the record-breaking viewership of the tournament

The 13th edition of Indian Premier League IPL is being played without crowds or the usual glamour due to coronavirus pandemic but the cricket fever has skyrocketed among the fans ever since the showpiece event marked the resumption of crick...

Bharti Airtel shares jump nearly 13 pc as company logs highest-ever quarterly revenues

Shares of Bharti Airtel jumped nearly 13 per cent on Wednesday after the company reported its highest-ever quarterly consolidated revenue on the back of a rise in data usage and higher realisations. The stock gained 12.65 per cent to Rs 487...

PM Narendra Modi rakes up Ayodhya issue at election rally in Darbhanga.

PM Narendra Modi rakes up Ayodhya issue at election rally in Darbhanga....

Give Feedback