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Turkish Intervention in Libya – Has Ankara Split its Militants’ Ranks in Northern Syria?

Behold, Turkey’s ‘new model army’ (Image Source: ANF News)

Khaled Iskef
21st Century Wire

The issue of uncovering the Turkish move to withdraw its loyal armed factions from Syria and transfer them to Libya to participate in the conflict there with the UN aligned Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, remains at the forefront of successive events and news in northern Syria.

Recently, a number of interactions and events accompanying revelations of the Turkish plan and its interference in Libya were revealed. The pro-Turkey “Syrian National Army,” formerly known as the Free Syrian Army (FSA), had issued a statement which denied such a plan, but the Turkish statements that appeared a few days later contradicted the alleged denial, but would not specify exactly which of Turkey’s ‘forces’ would be transferred to Libya.

At the time, and as confirmed via confidential sources in Syria, it was revealed that, “a meeting that took place in Libya between a number of senior Turkish army officers and officers of the Government of National Accord, during which time they agreed that Turkey will send support for from the pro-Turkey Syrian National Army fighters currently deployed northern Syrian”.

After the meetings held in Libya, another meeting was then held in Turkey which gathered a number of armed groups’ leaders with officers from the Turkish occupation intelligence, to put together an agreement for their deployment in Libya to take effect.

SEE ALSO: Is Erdogan Recycling Terrorists from Idlib, to a New Civil War in Libya?

Days after these meetings, special centers began to open up to register the requests of militants wishing to leave Syria to fight in Libya. Turkey has tempt those militants with relatively large amounts of money (compared to their current stipend under Turkish command), and great facilities and support which even includes granting of Turkish citizenship to all who arrive in Libya to participate in the fighting there.

According to the information received by this author, “Turkey has promised to ensure the militants’ transfer into its territory from Northern Syrian, giving them 900 Turkish liras, and then flying them to Libya with a promise to grant them a salary of $ 2,000 per month.”

The sources also reported that four such centers were opened in Afrin City north of Aleppo, in order to register the names of the militants, in addition to opening two other centers later in the village of Qibar and Mahmudiyah neighborhood under the supervision of “Hamza division,” “Al-Mutasim Brigade,” “Hawks Brigade,” and “Al-Sultan Brigade”. All of these factions are affiliated with Turkey’s new “Syrian National Army,” itself the largest pro-Turkey armed faction currently operating in contested areas of northern Syria.

One day after exposing that step, the “Syrian National Army” issued a statement as a try to remedy the situation denying the existence of any such centers or any intention to exit from Syria for the new front in Libya. But after a few days, Turkey issued statements that recognized its intention to transfer forces to Libya. In the words of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who said last Friday that his country “intends to send troops to Libya early next month,” claiming that this matter came “at the request of Tripoli,” referring to what Ankara considers to be the legal Government of National Accord in Libya.

Indeed, the sources confirmed that the first batch of fighters of armed groups present in Syria had already arrived in Libya prior to the Turkish presidential statement, coinciding with the start of Ankara’s preparation for a second batch scheduled to leave the Syrian territories in the coming weeks. One of the fighting battalions in the ranks of the Libyan Government of National Accord has also revealed the identification cards for some of the armed men fighting now with it.

Within this context, the past few hours have witnessed serious repercussions for the Turkish move of deploying its militant ranks to Libya, including potential discontent in the ranks of the leadership of  Turkey’s “Syrian National Army”, and international condemnation from those who are familiar with the crimes committed by FSA/Syrian National Army militants.

According to what was monitored in northern Syria, there now exists the potential for a number of divisions and disputes between the militant leaders and their fighting ranks, and of the Turkish-backed factions in general. The pro-Turkish militants were divided into two parts. The first have taken an opposing position to Turkish project in Libya, and will may result in a thinning of ranks. The other loyalist faction have placed their faith in Turkey to decide their fate going forward. These factions’ leaders rushed to hold successive meetings in several regions to discuss the current situation within their ranks.

Many close to events feel that this latest development could be considered as the first painful blow Turkey has received since the start of the Turkish intervention in the Syrian events. Time will tell whether this bold move will undermine Turkey’s lofty regional ambitions.


Author Khaled Iskef is an independent researcher and journalist based in Syria. His work has appeared on a number of international media outlets including Al Mayadeen TV. See his archive here.

READ MORE SYRIA NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Syria Files




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