Turkish military intervention shifting the balance of power in Libya

Turkey’s growing military intervention in Libya has led to significant gains on the battlefield, with a key rebel town now in its sights, columnist Michael Cousins writing for the Arab Weekly said on Sunday.

Turkey is backing the United Nations-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya in its fight against the forces of General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), which is backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

With the GNA capturing several towns west of Tripoli from the LNA with Turkish support in mid-April, its attention has turned to Tarhuna, the LNA’s main operations base around 60 kilometres southeast of the capital, Cousins said.

Capturing Tarhuna is likely to be difficult – the first attempt to take the town on April 19 failed, Cousins said.

Many locals served in the old Libyan army and support for the overthrown Qaddafi regime remains strong, and the town is well armed. “There is deep animosity in the town towards outsiders in general and towards the Tripoli-based GNA in particular, as well as resentment over the 2011 revolution,” said Cousins.

But with Turkey’s supply of arms and equipment, Turkish offshore frigates armed with surface-to-air missiles, and aerial dominance through Turkish drones, the GNA could feasibly take the town.

In the last week the GNA also launched fresh attacks in the southern Tripoli suburb of Ain Zara, which has been one of the main frontlines over the past year.

“The LNA have shot down Turkish-supplied drones in southern Tripoli, in the Tarhuna area and in the other main front at Abu Grein, south of Misrata but, like a hydra’s head, the more they are brought down the more drones are provided,” Cousins said.