Members of Libyan National Accord Government (GNA) militias ride in military vehicles on the outskirts of Tripoli, Libya April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Hani Amara
CAIRO – 23 December 2020: The Turkish parliament approved Tuesday the extension of military forces' presence in Libya for 18 months.
The flow of Turkish military personnel into Libya began this year after Turkey and the Tripoli-based interim government of National Accord (GNA) signed two MoUs in December 2019. One is on cooperating in gas exploration in the Mediterranean, and the other is on military cooperation.
In light of the latter, Turkey sent thousands of mercenaries to the country, mainly from Syria, as well as Turkish military personnel to train and co-command militias protecting the GNA.
Turkish Military Intervention and Foreign Mercenaries
On October 11, sources told Sky News Arabia that Turkey had withdrawn 1,500 Syrian mercenaries and instead sent hundreds of Turkish soldiers.
The LNA spokesperson had stated early in July that Turkey has transported into Libya 25,000 mercenaries. Those include 17,000 Syrian militants, 2,500 Tunisians who fought in the ranks of the Islamic State (IS) in Idlib and Aleppo, and other nationalities including the Sudanese.
Turkey has also sent 2,500 – 3,000 officers and military experts to co-command the operations rooms of the GNA militias and to pilot drones from mainly Tripoli's Mitiga Airbase. The LNA downed around 70 Turkish drones as they were targeting its concentrations.
The LNA announced downing on July 23 a Turkish reconnaissance plane west of the Libyan city of Sirte, which is currently controlled by LNA forces.
On July 22, the LNA warned Turkey against approaching the Libyan coast, threatening to target any hostile naval vessels in the Libyan waters.
The LNA's commander of mobilization unveiled July 25 that Syrian mercenaries transported by Turkey are being turned into police forces by the Ministry of Interior affiliated to the GNA.
The Libyan Armed Forces restored Sirte in January, and was advancing in the outskirts of Misrata and Tripoli. However, early in June, it lost Al Watiyah and Tarhouna, which was its last stronghold western the country, retreating into Sirte and Al Jufrah.
On July 5, several "unknown aircraft" launched nine strikes against Oqba Bin Nafea Airbase located in Al Watiyah controlled by the GNA – which is an interim non-elected government that is recognized by the United Nations - and Turkey. The outcome was the destruction of Hawk air defense systems, and a Koral electronic warfare system as well as the killing of a Turkish commander, and six officers as the operations room they were in was hit.
However, Commander of Mobilization at the LNA Khaled al-Mahgoub stated on July 20 that Turkey still uses Oqba bin Nafea airbase in Al Watiyah western the country to bring in military reinforcements less than a month from losing air defense and electronic warfare systems in strikes by "unknown flights." Furthermore, Turkey contemplates establishing a military base in Misrata.