Turkish troops are now being deployed to Libya, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced.
This follows an earlier parliamentary vote, which took place during the first days of the new year, whereby 325 Turkish lawmakers voted in favor of the move, with 184 voting against.
According to the Turkish president, their mission will be to bolster the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in based in the capital Tripoli. The Libyan government is currently battling rebels led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA), which is based in the eastern parts of the country.
The past year has seen the intensification of the fighting in the country. Haftar’s forces are currently engaged in an offensive and are seeking to capture the capital.
According to Erdogan, Turkish troops will not be participating in combat missions; rather the “soldiers’ duty there [will be] coordination” and “they will develop the operation [center] there.”
The ongoing civil war in the North African country has effectively become a proxy war. While Turkey and its ally Qatar support the GNA, Haftar has found favor with the United Arab Emirates and neighboring Egypt.
Russian military contractors are also believed to be working alongside the LNA.
The move by Turkey has irritated some of its own neighbors, most notably Greece, Cyprus and Israel. They said that it risks further destabilizing the region and that it is in violation of the current UN arms embargo on the country.
In response, Haftar stated in a televised address that “We accept the challenge and declare jihad and a call to arms.” During the same address, the rebel commander went on to accuse Turkey of being a colonizer wishing to “regain control of Libya,” which was an Ottoman province until the Italo-Turkish War of 1911-12.
The LNA, by virtue of its foreign support, has extensive hardware, which has added to the sophistication of the current conflict. Unlike other rebel forces, the LNA possess aerial and anti-air capabilities. Back in November of 2019, Haftar’s men shot down an American drone flying over Tripoli.
In the eastern city of Benghazi, an estimated 3,000 protestors took to the streets in opposition to Turkey’s involvement.
The increase in Turkish military involvement is the latest in a wide array of steps the country has been taking lately to increase its influence across the region. In addition to its invasion of northern Syria and incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan, the country also maintains bases in Qatar, Sudan and Somalia.