At a time when pro-Haftar Libyan forces have reportedly made advanced near Tripoli International Airport, Turkey's parliament has voted to approve Erdogan's next controversial foreign military adventure — sending troops to Libya to bolster the government under Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj based in Tripoli.
Turkish lawmakers approved the motion (325 to 184) at an emergency session on Thursday to grant a one-year mandate for troop deployment, despite the clearly ratcheting destabilization in the North African country which has been in essentially a state of anarchy since US-NATO regime change aimed at decades-long ruler Muammar Gaddafi.
GNA prime minister Sarraj made the request of Erdogan's government last month, after the two leaders signed a maritime boundary and military cooperation deal that's been hotly contested by other regional countries like Egypt, Greece, and Cyprus.
Interestingly, among the key arguments that supporters of deeper Libya involvement advanced during Thursday's parliament vote is that national security would be weakened by continued fighting in Libya. “A Libya whose legal government is under threat can spread instability to Turkey,” ruling party legislator Ismet Yilmaz argued. “Those who shy away from taking steps on grounds that there is a risk will throw our children into a greater danger.”
Turkey's main opposition party, CHP, argued that it would unnecessarily embroil the country into a complicated conflict with no end in sight that would inevitably contribute to the further "shedding of Muslim blood." One option considered is to simply expand Turkish military training to GNA Libyan troops.
It's as yet unclear just how many troops Erdogan has in mind, but likely it would be in the thousands to make a difference against advancing Haftar's army, who weeks ago declared the 'final' and 'decisive' offensive on Tripoli was on.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said to state-run media Turkey is prepared to send “the necessary number (of troops) whenever there is a need”; however, he also suggested there would be no need to the battlefield tide turns decisively in favor of the GNA. “If the other side adopts a different stance and says ‘OK, we are withdrawing, we are backing down,’ then why would we go?” Oktay said.
Already for years Ankara has poured military hardware into Tripoli hoping to assist the GNA in pushing pack the long advance across the country of Haftar's GNA. And there are widespread reports and some video evidence confirming Turkish-backed Syrian 'rebels' from FSA factions (TFSA) are on the ground fighting on behalf of Tripoli.
Meanwhile, Gen. Haftar long ago issued an order to his forces to shoot down any unauthorized foreign aircraft, specifically targeting Turkish military aircraft and drones, which naturally raises the question: will Turkish escalation spiral out of control (akin to Syria) the moment Turkish units begin taking on casualties?
As we observed last week, the whole bizarre Turkish intervention appears to be a "Syrian arms ratline in reverse" scenario, given that Erdogan's Turkey has for years overseen a Libya-to-Turkey-to-Syria arms "rat line" which saw both heavy weaponry and jihadists fighters transported for the purpose of toppling Assad. But now with Erdogan's eyes set on defeating the Benghazi-based Gen. Haftar, it appears this arms and jihadist rat line has conveniently been reversed.