Egypt and Turkey exchange threats through military exercises

The Egyptian armed forces have started comprehensive military exercises in the western region bordering Libya.

Observers see these military maneuvers as a response to military exercises conducted by the Government of National Accord (GNA) and Turkey, in addition to the mobilisation of the GNA forces to liberate the strategic cities of Sirte and al-Jafra.

Egyptian military sources confirmed that the “war project” initiated by the Egyptian army, in the early hours of Thursday morning, comes in response to Turkey’s announcement of massive naval exercises off the Libyan coast. The helicopters’ carrier Mistral, a number of combat frigates, and Rafale and F-16 fighters, in addition to the Air Defence Forces, are part of the “war project” initiated by the Egyptian Army. Egyptian military sources told Egypt Watch that these maneuvers come in light of increasing expectations of a soon upcoming confrontation in the Libyan city of Sirte, between the forces of the GNA that controls west Libya, and eastern Libyan forces, named the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Major General Khalifa Haftar, which controls the east of the country.

The internationally recognised GNA announced its intention to move forward in controlling all of Libya, rejecting the threats of the Egyptian General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi that Sirte is a red line for Egypt. Al-Sisi had warned that he might intervene militarily in Libya if the forces loyal to the GNA attacked Haftar’s forces in the strategic city of Sirte. The Egyptian regime is trying to show the extent of the Egyptian Army’s ability to repel any air attacks targeting Egyptian land, interests, and Emirati interests in eastern Libyan.

The Egyptian source (a retired military commander) said that the Egyptian regime (by these maneuvers) “sent the last warning, frankly, and clearly, to anyone who is interested in the matter inside Libya whether in Tripoli or any other place, terrorist elements, mercenaries, militias, any powers outside the Libyan borders, in Ankara, and others,” as he described.

The Western Military Region, where the maneuvers took place, is one of the four military regions of the Egyptian Armed Forces, and its headquarters is located in Marsa Matrouh Governorate. It carries out an annual training war project under the name Raad Maneuvers (Thunder military exercises). The Western Military Region includes the Mohamed Naguib military base, which is among the largest military bases in the Middle East, and also the Barani Air Force Base, as well as the Marjub Marine Base adjacent to the Libyan border. The Western Military Region also includes the Habata military airport, from where observers believe that the Emirati fighters launched an air strike on the al-Watiya Air Base, which is controlled by the GNA forces, last week.

The Egyptian regime is coordinating with the rulers of the Emirates on the situation in Libya, at a time when both the UAE and KSA are exerting great pressure on al-Sisi’s regime to fight a war against Turkey on Libyan soil. Al-Sisi identified, in his speech to the forces of the western region, on June 20, that Sirte, al-Jafra is a red line. Al-Sisi warned at the time that the Egyptian Army would interfere directly in Libyan territories if the line was crossed considering that direct military intervention in Libya had become internationally legitimate.

Al-Sisi also announced that the army was ready to arm and train the Libyan tribesmen (loyal to the LNA) to confront the internationally recognised legitimate government forces. Al-Sisi added that “any direct intervention by the Egyptian state in the Libyan crisis has now acquired international legitimacy, whether within the framework of the United Nations Charter (the right to self-defence), or based on the sole legitimate authority elected by the Libyan people (the Libyan parliament).”

On the other hand, a Libyan field source revealed the arrival of the Turkish Class-G missile frigate to the Libyan coast, at dawn on Thursday, adding that the advanced Turkish destroyer can carry and launch advanced types of stealth missiles with a range of about 300 kilometres.

The Turkish naval forces announced that they would conduct massive naval exercises off three regions of the Libyan coast, in order to serve as training in anticipation of any war in the eastern Mediterranean. According to Turkish media reports, the naval exercises will take place in international waters with the participation of 17 warplanes and eight naval vessels, with the aim of preparing the forces to control the area by air and sea.

The announcement of these maneuvers comes a few days after the visit of the Turkish Naval Forces Commander, Admiral Adnan Ozbal, to the Libyan capital, Tripoli, along with Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, the Turkish Army Chief of Staff.