Turkey risks being dragged into a war well beyond what it originally signed up for in Libya, the International Crisis Group (ICG) has said, adding that further escalation is a distinct risk and could both backfire for Turkey and come at the expense of Libyans at large.
“By intervening, Turkey has further enmeshed itself in an escalating conflict with a complex mix of players and stakeholders,” the non-governmental organization said in a report on April 30 titled “Turkey Wades into Libya’s Troubled Waters.”
Turkey supports the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Fayez al-Sarraj based in Tripoli and sent dozens of military training personnel after the two countries signed a series of deals.
The GNA has been under sustained attack for months from eastern-based renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), which is backed by Russia, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.
In addition to Turkish soldiers, Ankara also deployed Syrian rebels to the war-torn country.
“Turkey’s intervention has neither de-escalated the conflict nor yielded productive negotiations between rival political and military factions. It has instead exposed a different risk: The more outside actors provide military hardware and fighters to their respective Libyan allies, the longer the conflict may last and the deadlier it may become,” the ICG said.
Call for negotiations
“While Ankara deems its intervention worthwhile as long as it prevents Tripoli’s takeover, the costs may rise if as a result the conflict becomes more prolonged and deadly,” it also said.
“It therefore should be in Turkey’s and Haftar’s external supporters’ interest to explore areas of mutual accommodation, work toward a ceasefire, and find ways to bring their respective Libyan allies around the table to pursue a compromise that would also meet some of their own core needs,” the ICG added.
‘Motivated by larger goals’
Pointing to the fact that Ankara’s actions in Libya are “motivated by larger goals,” the organization said that Western governments, which criticized Turkey’s actions, “have also expressed tacit sympathy.”
“Neither Turkey nor any of Haftar’s foreign backers is likely to make one-sided concessions. The choice is between further escalation and a search for mutual accommodation that paves the way for peace among their Libyan allies while meeting as much as possible their own interests. They should pick the latter,” it also said.
Who pays for Turkish military support?
The report looked into the economic aspects of the conflict, questioning how exactly the Libyan government will pay the Gaddafi-era compensation and to whom.
It further questioned who pays for Turkish military support to Libya. Citing a Libyan businessman close to Tripoli and a Turkish official, the report said that Turkey itself shoulders part of the costs, and Doha also contributes.