Events in Libya have escalated rapidly in recent days, accompanied by an information and propaganda war between the opposing sides.
A written statement published on 21 May by Saqr Al-Jaroushi, commander of the Air Force of the Libyan National Army (LNA), hints at a dangerous escalation of the situation in the African country, stating that “the largest aerial campaign in Libya’s history is about to begin. All Turkish positions and interests in all (Libyan) cities are now legitimate targets for LNA planes, and as such the civilian population is urged to stay away from them.”
Turkish media had several days earlier launched a mass information campaign in support of Operation Peace Storm in Libya, reporting how the Libyan army had dealt a “crushing blow to Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s military units” around Tripoli, Al-Watiya and Abu Grein, and on the destruction of LNA military equipment. In demonstration of these victories, GNA supporters triumphantly paraded a captured Russian-made Pantsir C1E, an air defense missile system, around the Libyan capital as a trophy. Admittedly, it must be noted that the Pantsir in question was unable to move on its own; the burnt-out trophy was towed by a tractor, having been heavily damaged during the fighting. Nevertheless, the Pantsir became a powerful propaganda tool for Haftar’s opponents. As for how the Pantsir ended up in Libya, it formed part of an arms shipment sent to Haftar by the UAE, one of the field marshal’s main sponsors. This is indicated by the fact that the missile system is built on the chassis of the German MAN-SX45 off-road truck, which was successfully used in this configuration during the Emirates’ military campaign in Yemen.
Turkish media has over the past few days put particular emphasis on how Haftar’s troops lost control over the Al-Watiya airbase south of Tripoli, “hastily fleeing under pressure from the forces of Fayez al-Sarraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA), which receives robust military support from Turkey.” Turkey’s Minister of National Defense Hulusi Akar recently told Turkish information agency Anadolu that the balance of power in Libya is changing and summarized Turkey’s involvement in the conflict, emphasizing that the GNA’s success was made possible by the support of Turkish military consultants and their work with the army in the organization of military training.