Nearly a decade after the United States and its allies ousted Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Libya remains just as unstable as ever. The country remains in the midst of a civil war, with the Government of National Accord (GNA) at war with the Libyan National Army (LNA), among other groups. Elements of the Islamic State remain active in Libya, hoping to benefit from the power vacuum. And in the midst of all this, our erstwhile NATO ally Turkey is jumping into the fray, ramping up military operations in Libya and seeking to expand its influence in the Mediterranean.
Turkey’s involvement threatens to make the crisis in Libya much worse than it already is. Libya is now becoming yet another area of proxy war, with Turkey and Qatar on the side of the UN-recognized government in Tripoli, and Russia, Egypt, and others on the side of the LNA. Not only is Turkey flying thousands of Syrian militiamen to Libya to fight, it is also sending its own troops, as well as warships.
The crisis in Libya shouldn’t be surprising, as the Obama administration really had no plan for the country after Gaddafi’s ouster. And so Libya has become yet another Arab country destabilized by American foreign policy meddling. With Turkey now escalating the situation, it’s yet another attempt by President Erdogan to flex Turkey’s muscles abroad.
Turkey is currently fighting Syrian troops in Syria, attempting to intimidate Cyprus, and now is pushing into Libya. It’s almost as though Erdogan sees himself as a modern-day Sultan, with the Mediterranean Sea as Turkey’s playground once again. His intervention in Libya will draw the wrath not just of his Arab neighbors, but also of France and Italy, both of whom have vested interests in Libya. And continued intervention will undoubtedly continue the flow of migrants northwards from Northern Africa into Europe.
The major question facing Erdogan now is, has he overextended himself through so much intervention, and will he eventually face the consequences of that, or will he be successful and grow Turkey’s status as a world power? If the latter, it’s likely that sooner or later Erdogan will come into conflict with his NATO allies. Will they react by taking him down a peg, or will Turkey have gotten too strong by then for NATO to stop?