Ever since the downfall of longtime dictator Muammer Qadhafi in 2011, Libya has been in complete turmoil, anarchy and on the verge of being declared a failed state. Turkey has now announced that it will send troops in the conflict-ridden country to help the fledgling Libyan government.
Libya is split into rival eastern and west administrations since 2014. The internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) controls the capital Tripoli, while the oil-rich east is being run by a parallel administration supported by renegade commander Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army.
Haftar has been engaged in a ruthless military offensive against the Libyan government and has been termed a war criminal. At least 200 civilians and 2000 fighters have been killed while thousands have been displaced since Haftar’s assault on Tripoli began in April. He has announced a decisive battle for a total assault to take over the capital.
Libya will be used as a proxy war for the growing political differences in the Middle East. Turkey and Qatar support the GNA, while Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan and Egypt support Haftar. Turkish President Erdogan wants to send ground, marine, and air troops to Libya at the earliest to defend Tripoli against Haftar’s forces. Erdogan also wants to send a message that Turkey is a regional player and beyond.
The move will put the North African country’s conflict at the centre of wider regional frictions. Turkey sent troops to northeast Syria by launching an offensive against the Kurds earning the ire of Middle East rivals and several European nations. Erdogan has defended the decision saying that they are assisting a legitimate government, while countries supporting Haftar are backing a warlord.
Haftar’s supporters includes Russia who has also shown concerns over Turkish deployment in the country. Putin has called for the crisis to be resolved peacefully. Russia has denied reports that it had mercenaries and other assistance to support Haftar. The presence of Turkish troops will certainly impact the situation and could turn the tides in GNA’s favour.
Libya is unstable due to the NATO-backed military offensive to topple Qadhafi. The West soon pulled out after he was toppled failing to bring stability and leaving it in a quagmire. Erdogan is pushing Turkey into a military game where the only path is more escalation. It is already at loggerheads with several countries and now it needs to be seen whether the move will intensify the conflict or hasten its end.