The Fall of Al-Watiyah Base Establishes Permanent Turkish Presence in Western Libya

The Turkish regime controls the Tunisian-Algerian-Libyan border triangle

The fall of the Al-Watiyah military base to the Muslim Brotherhood and mercenaries establishes a permanent Turkish military presence in Libya, considering that all speculation is directed towards Turkey after its control of the remaining bases in the Western region (Mitiga and Misrata) in addition to the Zwara airport.

This development will change the balance of power in Western Libya, where the pro-Turkish government-backed militias will be able to attack army forces in all the cities of the Libyan west where they are present, especially south of Tripoli and Tarhuna.

This will not be limited to Western Libya, but will include the entire region in with regards to the strategic dimensions of this base, and therefore what happened is not isolated from Turkish President Erdogan’s desire to establish military bases in the region, expressed during his visits to Tunisia, Algeria and Chad, in an endeavor to impose new rules of engagement that compensate for his loss of Suakin base in northeastern Sudan, on the western coast of the Red Sea.

The fall of the base will enable the Turks to tighten their control over the entire Libyan-Tunisian-Algerian border triangle, given that al-Qaeda is strategically located to cover most of the areas within that triangle, raising levels of concern in the region.

The timing of the Brotherhood’s militia entering the Al-Watiyah base Monday, following a phone call from Erdogan to Fayez al-Sarraj on Sunday night inviting him to visit Turkey to discuss the executive steps of the memoranda of understanding on security and military cooperation signed between them last November,  raises concerns, expressed by many observers, of the possibility of al-Sarraj handing Al-Watiyah base to Erdogan, who dreams of expanding his country’s influence throughout the Maghreb.

Erdogan wants to compensate for his loss to the Suakin base in northeastern Sudan, at Al-Watiyah base in southwestern Tripoli

A retired Libyan army officer residing in the Zintan region near Al-Watiyah told Al-Arab that the fall of base was unexpected at this time, given the resistance shown by the Libyan army units stationed at the base in the face of repeated attacks led by Turks based in Al-Ejailat.

He revealed that, contrary to what Osama Al-Juwaili said, and after him Fayez al-Sarraj, the Turks were the first to enter the Al-Watiyah base, where a quad of six black four-wheel-drive bulletproof cars used by Turkish intelligence were seen in the early morning hours on Monday, after the army withdrew towards Zintan.

While Al Arab’s source considered that the withdrawal of the army forces from the base left questions about the military tactics of the army leadership, Libyan media  quoted a military source saying that “militia elements from the cities of al-Zawiya, Misrata and Zuwara loyal to the Saraj government, entered the Al-Watiyah military base with Turkish air cover”.

The source pointed out that the base of Al-Watiyah “has been subjected during the past days to more than 100 air strikes by the Turkish air force, along with fierce shelling from Turkish warships located off the coast of the city of Zawiya, which facilitated the militias entering the base after the withdrawal of the Libyan army, along with all its equipment and personnel in the early morning hours of Monday.”

Fayez al-Sarraj announced that his Turkish-backed militia managed  to take control of the strategic military air base, located in southwestern Libya, not far from the Tunisian border, at dawn on Monday. Hesaid that this “victory” does not “mark the end of the battle” but rather brings Al-Wefaq forces what he described as “the big day of victory” by controlling all Libyan cities and regions, not mentioning the role of Turkish forces and Syrian mercenaries in attacking the base that was subjected for more than ten days to intensive Turkish air strikes.

Prior to that, Osama al-Juwaili, the commander of the joint operations room of the militias loyal to the Saraj government, who had made Al-Watiyah base his central mission for more than a year,  stated, “our forces took control of the Al-Watiyah air base,” at a time when political Islam organizations, especially the Muslim Brotherhood with its military development,  will change the balance of power in Western Libya.

The Al-Watiyah military airbase, previously known as Aqabah Bin Nafi, is located in southwestern Libya, about 160 kilometers southwest of the capital, Tripoli, not far from the Jamil and Al-Assa regions in western Libya, and it extends over an area of ​​about 50 square kilometers.

This base, which was built by the Americans during World War II, is one of the largest military air bases in Libya, and it is characterized by its large fortifications, and includes weapons depots, a fuel station, more than one military airstrip, a residential city, and it is capable of harboring more than seven thousand military personnel.

About 6 years ago, this base was under the control of the Libyan army and was a command center for Western operations, and an important logistical station for the mobilization of incoming forces and supplies arriving for the army to support it in the battle it fought on the outskirts of the capital, Tripoli.

Al Arab

Translation by Internationalist 360°