Turkey Pivots to Tripoli: Implications for Libya’s Civil War and U.S. Policy
- Soner Cagaptay, Ben Fishman
- Content Type
- Policy Brief
- The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
- Facing pressure from General Haftar and his foreign military backers, the Tripoli government has welcomed the
helping hand extended by Ankara, whose own lack of regional options has drawn it into the middle of another
On December 10, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that he was willing to deploy troops in Libya
if the UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli requested it. He reiterated the offer during a
December 15 meeting with GNA prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj in Ankara—a visit that arose after Gen. Khalifa
Haftar, who heads the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) and seeks to replace the GNA, renewed his push to
take Tripoli by force.
Meanwhile, Turkey signed two controversial agreements with Tripoli over the past month: a memorandum of
understanding on providing the GNA with arms, training, and military personnel, formally ratified by Tripoli earlier
today; and a November 28 maritime agreement delineating exclusive economic zones in the Mediterranean
waters separating the two countries. The latter move drew protests from Greece and Egypt and was condemned
“unequivocally” by the European Council.
These and other developments indicate Libya’s emerging status as a focal point of Ankara’s foreign policy, which
seemingly regards the country as an arena for Turkish proxy competition with rivals old (Greece) and new (Egypt
and the United Arab Emirates). At the same time, Libya’s GNA has become increasingly dependent on Ankara for
military reasons—namely, a lack of other allies willing to provide arms capable of countering the LNA’s Emiratisupplied
drones, and the arrival of Russian mercenaries who have added new technology and precision to Haftar’s
war against Tripoli.
Unless Washington invests more diplomatic energy and fully backs the German-led initiative to implement a
ceasefire and return to peace negotiations, the proxy war in Libya will only escalate. In that scenario, Turkey and
Russia—not the United States or its European partners—could be become the arbiters of Libya’s future.
- Foreign Policy, Civil War, Military Affairs, Geopolitics
- Political Geography
- Turkey, Middle East, Libya, North Africa, United States of America