Turkey’s top military advisor proposes mercenary force

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Turkey’s top military advisor has suggested that the government should establish a private military company to train mercenaries, according to the Independent’s Turkey edition. His remarks came days after Turkey signed a military pact with Libya.

The proposal adds to concerns about Turkey’s intentions in Libya, where Ankara has proposed sending troops to fight alongside the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and a plethora of militias including extremist groups associated with Al Qaeda.

The GNA is fighting against the forces of General Khalifa Haftar, from the east of the country, who receives support from several European powers and moderate Gulf states opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamist groups.

Chief military advisor and retired Gen. Adnan Tanriverdi, owner of the private military contractor SADAT, supported the idea of establishing a mercenary company that operates abroad, elaborating in an interview with the Independent’s Turkey edition on how such a private army would be formed.

“Absolutely, Turkey needs a private company like Blackwater or Wagner,” Tanriverdi was reported as saying, indicating that it would be a new tool in Turkey’s foreign policy. Wagner is a paramilitary group whose contractors have reportedly taken part in conflicts including the Russian occupation of eastern Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere. Blackwater contractors supported the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and subsequently was found guilty of shooting unarmed civilians.

Libya has been divided since 2014 into rival military and political camps based in the capital Tripoli and the east. The Libyan National Army, backed by the government based in Benghazi, has been prosecuting an offensive on the capital Tripoli.

Earlier this month, Erdogan announced that he would send troops to support the GNA defend Tripoli. Tanriverdi said the deployment could bypass any kind of international agreement.

The combat power of the proposed private army would be significant since it would consist of experienced retired soldiers, provided that it was properly commanded, he was reported as saying. According to Tanriverdi, materiel and weapons would be provided by the Turkish army. Tanriverdi likened sending mercenaries abroad to exports, something also good for the economy, rather than deploying troops and officers from the Turkish army.

Turkish lawmaker and former Ambassador to Italy Aydin Adnan Sezgin opposed the Libya deal in a debate in parliament, saying it was designed to bypass the legislature in sending troops abroad. Sezgin also accused the Erdogan government of looking for ways to transfer terrorists in Syria’s Idlib region to Libya, the Times reported.

Another Turkish lawmaker and former ambassador to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Ahmet Ahmet Kamil Erozan, spoke at the same parliamentary session and pointed out that there were differences in the agreement’s wording in Turkish, English and Arabic that could be deceptive.

Turkey signed an accord with GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj last month that seeks to create an exclusive economic zone from Turkey’s southern Mediterranean shore to Libya’s northeast coast.

According to the United Nations, Turkey has already supplied military equipment to forces loyal to the GNA, including tanks and drones.

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