Turkey and Egypt are flexing their military muscles off the Libyan shores as chances of a potential war in the eastern Mediterranean continue growing.
Firstly, the Turkish Ministry of National Defense announced that soon it will hold large-scale naval exercises off the Libyan coast. The official statement said that the drills, called “Naftex”, will take place in three different regions: Barbaros, Turgutreis and Chaka Bey. Turkey says that the exercises will involve 17 warplanes and 8 ships proving “Turkey’s ability to control the region by air and sea”.
The current stalemate on the frontline between pro-Turkish forces and the Libyan National Army, backed up by Egypt and the UAE, near the port city of Sirte did not stop Turkey from sending new weapons and equipment to the frontline. The Turkish military also deployed additional equipment to the al-Watiya Air Base in western Libya. The airbase, which earlier this year became a strongpoint of Turkish forces, was recently bombed by the LNA Air Force. At least one MIM-23 Hawk medium-range air-defense system and a KORAL electronic warfare system of the Turkish military were reportedly destroyed. Pro-Turkish sources claim that the equipment recently deployed to the base included air defense systems that will give the LNA a ‘lesson’.
On July 9, the Egyptian Armed Forces kicked off its own drills in the region involving land, air and naval forces deployed near the Libyan border. The land component of the drills, codenamed Resolve 2020, took place in the northwestern district of Qabr Gabis. By this move, Egypt sent Turkey and its proxies a signal that an attempt by Turkish forces to capture Sirte is a red line and if crossed, they will face a Egyptian military response.
Taking into account, the logistical difficulties of Turkish forces and the apparent Egyptian military advantage in the event of a confrontation near its western border, the open intervention of Egypt into the conflict will put an end to Turkish hopes to consolidate its recently increased influence in Libya.
Meanwhile, ISIS have been trying to exploit the escalation for their own cause. According to reports, ISIS cells that still hide in the desert area in central Libya have recently increased their activity and resumed attacks on civilian targets mostly looting small villages and robbing civilian convoys. ISIS’ self-proclaimed Caliphate deteriorated into just a loud brand used by various gangs to justify their criminal behavior. Despite this, even such gangs will become a serious security issue if the conflict in Libya enters a new hot phase.