Turkey seems to be in race against time to exploit international hesitation towards its military moves in Libya so as to transform its current presence in the North African country into a permanent protectorate based on military, security and economic arrangements.
Turkish intent was most recently illustrated by a series of binding agreements reached with the Libyans and Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar during his visit to Tripoli.
The deals reached by Akar, who met with Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, were described by Libyan observers as “humiliating military agreements”.
Sources said that the recent agreements provided for the creation of a Turkish military base in Libya, in addition to the establishment on Libyan soil of a Turkish armed force whose members enjoy immunity against any prosecution and would be expected to intervene any time in order to save the al-Sarraj government from any threats.
The Turkish-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) said in a statement that the talks, which were attended by a high-level military delegation from both sides, reviewed developments in Libya and discussed “military and security cooperation” within the framework of the memorandum of understanding signed between the al-Sarraj government and Ankara last November.
GNA Deputy Defence Minister Salah Namrush said the talks examined the issue of military training.
According to him, discussions “confirmed the continuation of Turkish support to the legitimate government in Libya in the areas of military and security cooperation, in addition to the opening of training centres to build a professional army and preserve the state’s capabilities.”
According to observers, Ankara is picking up on U.S. plans to train GNA forces, as discussed between Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha and a delegation from U.S. AFRICOM, which he met a few days ago.
Akar’s meetings in Tripoli with Turkish officers and soldiers angered many Libyans as the meetings conveyed the clear sense that the Libyan capital has fallen under Turkish rule and that the GNA has become a mere front for bestowing legitimacy on the Turkish presence in Libya.
The Anadolu press agency said that Akar visited the military hospital in Mitiga, where he was briefed on the situation by officials and by the Turkish medical staff working there.
From the Mitiga hospital, a helicopter flew the Turkish Defence Minister, and Chief of General Staff Yaşar Güler, to a warship in the Mediterranean, where the Turkish military operations centre is located.
The far reaching movements of the delegation showed that that Turkey was already operating in what seemed to be like a state within the Libyan state.
In Misrata, Akar repeated what he did in Tripoli as he arrived at the Air College in Misrata and was greeted by Bashagha and a number of Turkish officers before he visited the Turkish Operations Room overseeing military operations and conducting air force sorties. The operations room was at the starting point of Turkish intervention in Libya.
Libyans fear that militias and armed groups, including militants who have infiltrated security institutions, will be integrated and given legitimacy in order to negotiate with them any future political solution that would include their inclusion in the security and military forces of the country. Such a scenario would, according to experts, represent a threat to the security of the country as it would turn Libya into a haven and transit point for terrorists.
Libyan analysts described the new GNA agreements with Turkey as a cover for a de facto occupation of the country by Ankara, especially that the al-Sarraj government has already signed economic agreements that mortgage much of Libya’s financial resources to Turkey.
The Libyan National Army led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar warned of the consequences of the new military agreements with Ankara.
Khaled al-Mahjoub, director of moral guidance at the Libyan National Army, said that the military agreements between Ankara and the al-Sarraj government are aimed mainly at ensuring the control of oil fields and at bypassing the Egyptian “red line” constituted by the city of Sirte and the Jufra air base.
Mahjoub warned in an interview with MBC Egypt that the Turks are seeking to cross the “red line” set by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, in an attempt to plunder the wealth of the Libyan people, especially through the control of oil fields in the east, hence threatening Egyptian and Arab national security.
He stressed that the al-Sarraj government is making moves and concluding agreements outside the scope of legitimacy, warning that the Libyan National Army will thwart all such attempts.