Turkey and Russia have been at opposite ends in both Syria and Libya. Just like Syria where Turkish drones excelled against the Russian air defence systems, the situation in Libya looks almost similar.
Turkey's use of armed drones changed the course of the Syrian war in Idlib in March. Now they've changed the course of the Libyan war. https://t.co/TqaVRyWHrJ
— Liz Sly (@LizSly) May 22, 2020
Turkish drones have yet again battered Russian air-defence systems. According to TRT World, the introduction of drones in Libya by Turkey has caused the tide of the war to swing in its favour.
To understand the Libyan war is not easy as different countries support different leaders and this has caused widespread chaos in the region. Much like Syria, Russia and Turkey are supporting different groups in Libya.
Moscow backs and supports Khalil Haftar of the Libyan National Army (LNA) based in Benghazi. Haftar also has allies in France, Saudi Arabia and Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. The LNA recruits from all over Africa and its aim are to wrest control of the capital, Tripoli, from the Government of National Accord (GNA) and rule over the African country.
The GNA is the internationally recognised government in Libya and the defence of the government lies in the hands of Turkey, Qatar and Italy and its army. The LNA, under Haftar, launched a military campaign in April 2019 to take control of Tripoli even though the UN Secretary-General had requested him not to do so.
A year on, Haftar’s self-styled LNA is on verge of defeat as Turkey’s drones have wreaked havoc on LNA controlled territories.
Turkish Drones – Changing the Tide
According to reports, Turkish drones started arriving in late 2019 and the Turkish Army assisted the GNA to familiarize Libyans with the new weapons.
Prior to the arrival of the drones, Haftar’s own air force, supported by the UAE, Egyptians and Russians had devastated the GNA forces resulting in heavy casualties.
However, the drones have proved to be the game-changer yet again. Using their experience from Idlib in Syria, Ankara mastered the use of sophisticated unmanned aerial warfare, hitting targets at distance and assisting ground troops.
Now using the same technology and experience, Turkish drones have been vital in assisting GNA claim nearly all of western Libya from Haftar’s forces. Since April, the GNA has captured numerous cities between Tripoli and the Tunisian border.
The latest feather in the GNA’s cap is the seizure of the Al-Vatiya, HQ of the LNA’s western operations, and the largest airbase across Western Libya. The Turks reported the destruction of two Russian anti-aircraft missile-cannon systems (ZRPK) “Pantsir-C1”.
This is the first time that the GNA has announced hitting the Russian air defence system since the start of the assault on Tripoli forces in April 2019.
Russia Wounded Yet Again?
For the Russian forces, the latest advance in Libya is a flashback of Syria. As reported by EurAsian Times in March, drones from Turkey had destroyed several Russian-made, Syrian-operated air defence vehicles. The Russian Ministry of Defence later confirmed that two Pantsir air-defence systems were destroyed in the Turkish onslaught.
In Libya, the air defence system has met the same fate and has now raised questions over its efficacy. The aerial offensive from Ankara has put Moscow on the backfoot. But like always, analysts agree that the Russian will not go out without a fight.
In an effort to counter GNA and its allies, Moscow has sent 6 MiG-29 fighter jets and 2 Su-24 attack planes to the LNA-controlled al Jufra airbase. The Russians did get some positive news as the LNA was able to destroy 4 Turkish drones last week. Haftar’s only hope to stem the GNA’s advance is to regain air superiority.
The Libyan war has been going on since 2011 and while the tide has now swung in the GNA’s favour, it does not mean the war will end anytime soon. Experts speaking to EurAsian Times believe that there is no military solution to Libya and Haftar must be removed from the scene in Tripoli.
Written by – Armaan Srivastava