The conflict in Libya threatens to spread across the wider MENA, Maghreb and Sahel regions amidst increased support of Turkey for the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, with Egypt and the Gulf poised to support Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army in turn.
Long ignored by the international community if favour of conflicts and developments in other parts of the Middle East and North Africa, the conflict in Libya is once again gaining attention following what appears to be a series of escalatory acts.
In recent weeks, Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), which is loosely affiliated with the country’s Tobruk-based House of Representatives Government (HoR) in the east, has started making gains around the Libyan capital of Tripoli in the west against the forces loyal to the United Nations-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), breaking the stalemate that had persisted for much of the year.
The recent gains made by the LNA and the rumours of increased Russian assistance to Haftar appears to have pushed the GNA to seek its own sources of assistance, turning towards the Turkish Government, which has consistently backed the GNA since its inception. Fearing that the victory of the LNA – which is also supported by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, all of which have tense relations with Turkey – would render Libya entirely hostile to its interests, Ankara signed a defence agreement with the GNA earlier in December.
Subsequently, the GNA issued an invitation to the Turkish Government to deploy troops in Libya, with Turkey’s parliament passing the motion towards the deployment of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in the country. Although Turkish troops are yet to be deployed, there have already been many reports of fighters belonging the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) arriving in the country.
These developments threaten to turn what was a relatively local conflict into one that can impact the whole region. Already, the LNA indicated that it would consider the TSK a valid target. Egypt and Algeria have also voiced opposition to the arrival of the TSK. However, the two countries remain on the opposing ends, literally and figuratively, with regards to their support for the Libyan factions, with Algeria still having cordial ties with the GNA while Egypt firmly supports the LNA. Tunisia, which also has more cordial ties with the GNA, has also called for a political solution to the crisis.
Many countries in the region fear that Libya’s conflict may now spread to the wider MENA, Maghreb and Sahel region, with the geopolitical interests of many regional powers involved in the country making it harder to find a peaceful resolution.