Between 3,500 and 3,800 paid Syrian fighters transferred by Erdogan into Libya now threaten Europe
The U.S. Defense Department’s inspector general confirmed for the first time that Turkey sent between 3,500 and 3,800 paid Syrian fighters to Libya over the first three months of the year, changing the course of Libya’s war between the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Libyan National Army (LNA). The report says the U.S. military found no evidence to suggest the Syrian mercenaries were affiliated with the Islamic State extremist group or al-Qaida.
It says they were “very likely” motivated by generous financial packages rather than ideology or politics. But from our conversations with these fighters emerge they are members of Syrian factions, as Sulltan al-Musrad and Jeysh al-Isam, well known for their affiliation with radical groups, backed by Saudi Arabia until 2018, and actually by the Turkish regime against the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. The US report covers only the first quarter of the year, until the end of March — two months before a string of Turkish-backed victories by the Tripoli forces drove Hifter’s self-styled army from the capital’s suburbs, its stronghold at Tarhuna and a key western airbase.
As for today, the total number of Syrian mercenaries transferred by Erdogan in the North African country, to support the GNA islamist militias, exceed 10,000. They are deployed in several military camps around Tripoli, Misrata, Sirte and al-Jufra. The latest report says the Turkish deployments likely increased ahead of the Tripoli forces’ triumphs in late May. It cites the U.S. Africa Command as saying that 300 Turkish-supported Syrian rebels landed in Libya in early April. Turkey also deployed an “unknown number” of Turkish soldiers during the first months of the year, the inspector general adds.
Turkey’s increasingly reckless foreign policy is on full display, from weaponizing refugees to extort the European Union to exporting mercenary Jihadist fighters. According to several testimoniances, the final destination of these fighters when the war is over will be Europe. Many of them, once arrived in Libya, deserted after few days and crossed the Mediterranean toward Italian coast, on board of ghost ships departed from Western Libya.
Ankara also threatens to open its borders for immigrants to flood through Europe. In 2016, the EU and Turkey reached a deal in which Turkey received billions of Euros in exchange for preventing a wave of refugees and asylum seekers from crossing into Europe. However, when the Syrian regime began its offensive on Idlib, which is home to many Ankara-backed jihadist fighters, Turkey was angry and decided to open its border to allow refugees to stream into Greece, as a way to get the EU to put pressure on Syria and its Russian backer to halt the offensive.