Erdoğan Wades into the Libyan Quagmire
Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is the epitome of today’s strongman political leader, but his decision to send Turkish troops to Libya may be a step too far. By the time his Libyan gamble sours, as it inevitably will, he will have run out of both luck and friends.
WINCHESTER, UK – Foreign critics of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan deride him as a quasi-dictatorial megalomaniac. But Erdoğan – who was Turkey’s prime minister for 11 years before being elected president in 2014 – is now a reckless gambler, too. In short order, Turkey will send troops to Libya at the request of the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), which has been besieged in Tripoli for the last eight months by the advancing forces of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).
This will be a military and diplomatic folly. Erdoğan already has the distressing example of the Syrian conflict on Turkey’s own doorstep. Does he really imagine that sending a few hundred – or even many thousand – Turkish troops to aid the beleaguered GNA will somehow resolve Libya’s tragic and bloody turmoil, itself the result of the 2011 intervention by foreign powers that toppled Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi’s regime?
If Erdoğan expects either a GNA victory or an imminent peace settlement, he is deluding himself. Haftar’s well-equipped LNA has the support of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and (at least covertly) France. With mercenaries from Russia and Sudan on his side, Haftar must feel rather more optimistic than Fayez al-Sarraj, the GNA’s prime minister. Support for the GNA from Turkey and Qatar, along with the fig leaf of UN recognition, weighs rather less in the military balance.