Turkish Medical Aid to Libya Hides Increased Military Involvement


On Friday, the Turkish state agency “Anadolu” reported that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent medical supplies to Libya to help fight the current outbreak of coronavirus, which has already infected 1.6 million people globally and claimed nearly 96,000 lives in 185 countries.

Similar to China, Turkey has sent medical aid worldwide in an effort to not only help friendly nations face the current pandemic but also to strengthen its soft-power. This latter point is even more important in Libya, where Turkey has supported the Government of National Accord (GNA) with weapons and fighters since the launch of the Tripoli offensive by the Libyan National Army (LNA) in April 2019.

The medical aid provided by Turkey serves a two-pronged approach, one to support the GNA in its fight against the coronavirus outbreak and the other to win hearts and minds in a country where Turkish military involvement is overwhelmingly seen in negative terms. Turkey has indeed escalated its military involvement in Libya since the beginning of the pandemic, hoping to achieve tactical gains, and is believed to continue sending Syrian fighters to the North African country.

The article published by “Anadolu” recognised the fact that the GNA owns hundreds of Turkish-made weapons, tanks and drones, in addition to hosting Turkish naval frigates off the coast of Tripoli to ensure that the capital does not fall under LNA-hands. The article also highlighted the role of Misrata where it claims that a large community of Libyans descending from Ottoman Turks has played a crucial role in fighting alongside the GNA. The unfounded belief that Libyans with Turkish roots are sympathetic to Turkish involvement is commonplace in Turkey’s media and among its politicians.

Since its involvement in the Libyan conflict, Turkey has lost 180 Syrian fighters who were drawn to Libya by Turkish promises of financial compensation. Considering such losses and the decaying morale of Syrian troops in Libya, Erdogan is believed to have ordered the deployment of a few more hundred Syrian fighters to the North African country.