Ankara in Africa: Turkey’s deadly exports put Nigeria, continent at risk
Turkey is exporting jihadists and terrorists to Libya. It wouldn’t be long before these fighters find their way to other regions including West Africa where borders are porous-and into Nigeria where Boko Haram, ISWAP and bandits are already proving too much for the government.
In the quest for political clout, many countries have turned to Africa for strategic advantages-Russia and China’s activities have recently increased on the continent.
Turkey, which is located between Eastern Europe and Western Asia, is one of such scrambling for Africa. Originally Turkey’s involvement in Africa (as far back as 2003 when Recep Tayyip Erdogan was Prime Minister) was on economic basis. But it has evolved to military interventions that escalate conflict and provide avenue for Turkey to offload rebel forces it no longer has need for. A disastrous intervention in the Syrian Civil war of 2011 that saw Turkey back Al Qaeda has left the country with 3.8 million refugees.
With the Turkish economy not doing well and growing discontent at home, exporting its ‘inherited rebels’ to Libya and the rest of Africa will provide Turkey a rare double win in expanding its influence and ridding itself of its mercenaries. “We have seen during these last days Turkish warships accompanied by Syrian mercenaries arrive on Libyan soil. This is an explicit and serious infringement of what was agreed in Berlin. It’s a broken promise,” said French President Emmanuel Macron on January 29 this year. The French President at the joint news conference in Greece blasted Turkey for violating Libya’s sovereignty and endangering European and West African security.
Turkey’s latest role in Africa contradicts an agreement reached at a Berlin summit to end the Libya conflict by halting foreign interference. But the dangerous game Turkey is playing started with the attack of the Syrian regime in the Idlib area (north-west of the country) on May 9th, 2019. After that attack, Turkey started to organize an orderly outflow of part of the rebels that it supports, with the aim of protecting its own interests.
Part of the rebels was involved in the Turkish operation against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from October 2019 the 9th, where they indulged in abuses on the local population. Besides the lootings, these Ankara-hired-fighters tortured the SDF fighters and murdered politicians. On October the 19th, near Tell A Abiad (Syrian-Turkish Border), the Ahrar al Charquiyeh Salafists (a rebel group of the Syrian civil war) killed Hevrin Khalaf, a local political woman member of the Syrian Democratic Counsel, after mutilating her.
The other part of the pro-Ankara Salafists was deployed in Libya, by the order of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to join the Pro-GNA (Government of National Accord) forces at Tripoli. For this purpose, the Ankara Sultan purposely sent Abou Furqan, his “Kaymacam” in Libya, renowned in Syria for diverting a part of the Syria insurgency to the benefit of the sole interests of Turkey. Abou Furqan thus brought with him his mercenaries, who are real mobsters.
Between the end of December 2019 and January 2020, the Libyan companies Afriqiyah Airways and Libya Airlines conveyed more than 200 salafists fighters with their weapons to the airports of Tripoli-Mitiga and Misratah. Amongst them are ISIS and Al-Qaida (Jabhat al Nousra) fighters that Turkey wants to get rid of, lest they turn against their alleged “Master”. On the 05/02/20, two militia chiefs told the press (‘Associated Press’) that Syrian Al Qaida and ISIS affiliated fighters were sent to support the GNA.
The purpose of this strategy, developed by the Turkish Services, is to enhance security in Turkey and in the same time to exploit the experienced and often out of control fighters to the benefit of their own expansionist interests in Libya. The recruiting was systematized and is now going on. First targeting very specific skills (snipers, bombs makers), the Syrian fighters Libya-bound recruitment expanded massively on the basis of several dedicated offices in North-Syria at Azzaz, Afrin and Jarablus. In the long run, Turkey intends to send 10,000 fighters in the region in order to definitely reverse the balance of power front to the Libyan National Army (LNA).
The intervention in Libya and the massive shipment of Syrian fighters pose more threat than prolonged instability in the oil rich country. Ankara poses the threat of spreading those terrorists to West Africa, and strengthens the network between different jihadist terrorists including ISWAP and Boko Haram. Syrian chiefs in the footsteps of Fahim Issah and Sultan Mourad are known for their exactions and lootings anywhere they go. So looting and stealing of the Libyan citizens as they do in the north-east of Syria can be feared. Showdowns have already been noticed, involving these mercenaries and the GNA forces they are supposed to support in the Salah Eddine area.
These Syrians are now massively present and heavily armed, and they are adepts of an Islam inspiring the Boko Haram and Al-Qaida terrorists. Moreover, they are not bound to go back to Syria, as the on-site context is against them. Turkey will disagree. The risk is thereby significant to witness the settlement of networks infiltrating these fighters to the “Sahelo Saharian Strip” to join “Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb” (AQMI), ISIS and Boko Haram terrorists, and so spreading terrorism and their Islamic oppression on the entire region.
The threat of dispersal in Africa is not only concerning men, but also weapons. Heavy weapons are conveyed by sea route from Turkey to Tripoli and Misratha, escorted by Turkish battleship (anti-aircraft ships). Jihadists coming from Syria represent an important political and social instability factor for the western Libya, where the Sufi Islam is predominant.
According to Turkish news website Ahval, Turkey is said to be planning a military base in West Africa. “However, as shown before in other parts of the continent, such as the Horn of Africa, Turkish encroachment follows a multifaceted strategy including military bases, the establishment of intelligence networks and the promotion of Turkish economic interests.”
Turkey is at present spreading its military empire across Africa. It has a military base in Somalia which can accommodate 1 500 soldiers, and that increases its influence on the local authorities.
Besides hundreds of soldiers (400) deployed on the Libyan territory, Ankara has also sent more than 2,000 mercenaries coming from Syria and built a military empire in Libya (at Misratha, Tripoli Mitiga airport takeover). Turkey has just bought the Sudani island of Sawakin to build a naval base on the Red Sea. Moreover, negotiations are on-going for military cooperation agreements with African countries, like it was already done in Togo and Guinea, to promote Turkish defense industry exportations.
At last, scholarships are offered to Africans citizens wanting to school in the Turkish defense university. The “ottomanisation” of the African Islam is ongoing. So the Diyanet (Presidency for religious affairs) was mandated to build in every big African capital city an ottoman-styled mosque. Ankara wants to impose its own view of Islam on the African continent and legitimate its long–term presence. Still, under economical pretexts, Ankara is infiltrating the Africa sovereignty.
Based on its colonialist tradition, Turkey adopts an offensive strategy in Africa and committed in a strategy of acquisition of strategic infrastructures and contracts in sovereignty fields, especially in defense industry. In addition, loans with low rate are granted to some African governments in order to foster them to coordinate their defense industry into one only national group, which would permit a sole counterpart for the Turkish defense industry.
The Turkish company named Summa has been detaining since May 1st 2019 the exploitation monopoly of the Diori Hamani airport in Niamey. At the end of October 2019, the company decided to carry out important refection works which required the closure of the runway during 30 days, weakening the ability to act of the join forces in Niger and so threatening the security throughout the region.