Turkey and Europe are preparing for a possible military operation against the Wagner group in Libya

Italian, British and Turkish planes have landed in Tripoli and Misurata in recent days

PHOTO/ARCHIVO  -   Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

The Turkish presidency sent a memorandum to parliament on Monday to extend Turkish missions in Libya for at least another 18 months, which is key to its recent intention to act against the Wagner group, Russian mercenaries installed according to the UN and the US in central, southern and eastern Libya. 

To this must be added the growing European presence in western Libya, with British aircraft landing in Misurata and Tripoli in recent days, in addition to the significant movement of Italian military cargo aircraft in this area of the country. It cannot be ruled out that all this is aimed at preparing a military operation to expel the Wagners from Libya, now that the situation in Russia, with the war it has been waging in Ukraine for the past four months, has worsened. 

The head of the general staff of the Dabaiba government, Muhammad al-Haddad, strongly criticised the presence of this mercenary group, which he described as "foreign occupiers", which he said would hinder the race to build a strong state, and that otherwise they would remain "slaves protecting foreign occupiers".

PHOTO/ARCHIVO  -   Khalifa Haftar

According to the memorandum signed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's intention "is to protect national interests within the framework of international law and take all necessary precautions against security risks emanating from illegal armed groups in Libya, as well as other potential problems such as mass migrations, provide the humanitarian aid needed by the Libyan people and grant the necessary support to the legitimate government in Libya".  

The motion passed with the support of the Justice and Development Party and the Nationalist Movement Party. The Republican People's Party, the pro-Kurdish group and the Good Party were against.  

But the situation in Libya is not simple, since February 2011, when the country's attempts to grow and build a strong democratic system were cut short by the various armed conflicts that fragmented the country's administrative structure. 

The United Nations recognises the internationally recognised Government of National Accord, which has emerged from parliament. The other faction is led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, head of the Libyan National Army, who began a military offensive in 2019 to seize Tripoli.  

In fact, Haftar has been key to Russia's influence in Libya thanks to his good relationship, something that was further consolidated with the entry of the Wagners into Libyan territory. This group, despite not being recognised by the Russian government, which denies any kind of direct military action in Libya, has a very important military potential and is a key player in the movements orchestrated by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Libya. 

Because of this consolidation, the Russians demanded a dialogue with the US on Libya, which Washington rejected on several occasions, calling only for the withdrawal of its mercenaries from Libya. It is clear that Russian forces have not withdrawn, since for Putin's government this region is considered a very important enclave of influence for the West, and its strategic presence in the Mediterranean is of great interest to the Russian administration.

Grupo Wagner
Ejército francés vía AP  -   This undated photograph distributed by the French army shows Russian mercenaries boarding a helicopter in northern Mali

Various reports have corroborated that mercenaries control places of great strategic importance, such as the crescent region, which has a very high energy value. This increases Europe's interest in controlling this region in order to counteract the supply disruptions that Russia's invasion of Ukraine is causing. 

All of this has caused the Libyan oil sector to suffer the consequences, with a significant weakening of the country's economy, due to the closure of ports and oil fields, something which, according to international observers, Haftar may be behind, and with these closures Russia can put even more pressure on Europe and the US in terms of energy. 

The West seems prepared to operate militarily in Libya to rid it of the Wagners, especially after Haftar's latest moves. This would be a strategic coup in the ongoing struggle for oil and gas between Russia and Europe.