The Political And Military Battle For Tripoli Intensifies

North Africa

With Khalifa Haftar's LNA forces making progress against the GNA around the Libyan capital of Tripoli, the GNA's announcement of entering a military memorandum of understanding with the Turkish Government could take the conflict in a further unpredictable and regional direction.

As the battle around the Libyan capital of Tripoli between the forces loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA) and Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) heats up, so does the political situation, threatening to draw in other regional and even global powers. Since announcing the launch of its final offensive against the GNA-held Tripoli City, the LNA has started making steady progress against the GNA forces. The recent days saw heavy fighting between the GNA and the LNA in Wadi al-Rabie’ while the Abu Salim district, the largest and closest district to Tripoli’s city centre, was secured by the GNA.

With the GNA’s hold on the capital increasingly contested by the LNA, its Prime Minister, Fayez al-Sarraj, announced the ratification of a military memorandum of understanding with the Turkish Government. In a statement released by the GNA following a high-priority meeting of the GNA’s council of ministers, officials said that they unanimously accepted the activation of a security and military agreement signed with Turkey on 27th November 2019.

This statement was supported by a statement by the Turkish President,Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, that his government would be ready to help the GNA while strengthening ties between Ankara and Tripoli. He clarified that Ankara will be providing the GNA with military and security support, as well as taking steps in furthering a maritime agreement signed between the two governments.

Geopolitics almost certainly plays a role in Ankara’s decision to back the GNA with which it always had warmer ties in comparison to the LNA or the House of Representatives (HoR) Government in Tobruk. Indeed, the LNA is backed by France, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Russia. All but Russia have tense ties with Turkey at the moment and even Russia stands in opposition to Turkey in not just Libya but also Syria.

As such, the conflict, which has remained largely contained to Libya, now threatens to take a more international dimension. Indeed, LNA officials have announced that they would target the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) operating in Syria. Such an action could see the Libyan conflict take an ever-more unpredictable direction.