The Turkish Ministry of Defence announced on Monday its intention to carry out an unexpected military exercise. The Turkish Air Force F-16 fighter planes and Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers will perform the air refueling over the Mediterranean Sea, according to a statement issued by the Ministry.
The statement was followed by the sudden announcement of a naval NAVTEX exercise by the Turkish Navy, which is also expected to take place in the Mediterranean. The manoeuvres will take place off the Libyan coast in three different regions and will aim to prepare the naval forces for a possible war and "demonstrate Turkey's ability to control the region by air and sea". The exercise will mobilize 8 ships and 17 war planes.
The objective, location and timing of the Turkish exercises are of particular importance in relation to the recent incident at Al-Watiya Air Base in Libya. On 5 July, unidentified aircraft bombed Turkish troops deployed at Al-Watiya, damaging and destroying Turkish air defence systems there. Government of National Unity (GoNU) officials accused the Libyan National Army (LNA) allies of the attack. The spokesman for Operation Volcano conducted by the GNA units said angrily that the attacks were allegedly the work of the Mirage 2000-9 deployed by the United Arab Emirates, one of the GNA's main allies. The attack clearly surprised Ankara and led Turkish authorities to consider using force against the LNA and its allies.
In this sense, the time and place of the manoeuvres now allow Turkey to attack LNA military objectives of strategic importance in the region. Turkey wants to send a message to its opponents and demonstrate its determination to use force to protect its troops in Libya, according to Egyptian military analyst Samir Ragheb. In fact, during a recent visit to Tripoli, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar signed an agreement granting Ankara the right to intervene directly militarily in Libya and to establish military bases in the country.
These provocative actions and statements are clear evidence of Turkey's firm intention to use military force to achieve its objectives in Libya. If Ankara decides to attack the LNA, this will inevitably lead to a further escalation of violence and further aggravate the already deteriorated security situation in the region.
Alaeddin Saleh is a Libyan journalist with long professional experience in studying and covering Libya and the region