Libya's Muslim Brotherhood-controlled Government of National Accord (GNA) wants Turkey to send military advisers to the country. The United States and the United Nations recognize the GNA as Libya's legitimate government. The Turkish advisers would supplement Turkish forces already in Libya to fight against anti-Islamist Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who is backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Russian mercenaries belonging to the Wagner group. This Russian company first became prominent during the 2014 seizure of Crimea by Vladimir Putin.
Turkey has used drones in Libya against Haftar's forces over the past year.
Turkey's Islamist SADAT Defense Consulting, a group that has trained al-Qaida and ISIS-linked jihadists in Syria, in cooperation with Turkey's MIT intelligence agency, may increase its involvement in Libya. SADAT also trained and equipped Hamas fighters, according to Israeli investigators.
"SADAT has already [been] involved in Libya before in training, expertise, facilitating of arms and logistical supplies etc. The new engagement means an escalation of what they have already been doing," said Turkish journalist Abdullah Bozkurt, who has followed SADAT's activities in Libya and elsewhere. "Since the Turkish military was transformed with the purge of almost all pro-NATO officers and the posts are filled with Islamists and neo-nationalists since 2016, there is no military check on Sadat and Erdoğan government's ambitions to empower jihadists in Libya.
"SADAT would tap into huge resources of the Turkish military to fulfill Erdoğan's dream of securing an [Islamist-controlled] ... Libyan government."
Russia has a similar interest in Libyan oil. Wagner, the mercenary group, has a history of defending Russian oil interests, Libya analyst Jalel Harchaoui of the Dutch Clingendael Institute told the Investigative Project on Terrorism. This was true in Syria. Wagner has been directly involved in combat in Libya.
"Erdoğan used SADAT and the Turkish intelligence to introduce Libyan jihadists to Syrian theater early in the conflict in 2011. Now a reverse engineering is going on with jihadists picked up from Syria and deployed in Libya with the help of the Turkish government," Bozkurt said.
Chances of Turkish and Russian mercenaries clashing in combat are remote because Erdogan needs to maintain good relations with Putin, Bozkurt and Harchaoui said.
Erdogan created trouble in the Eastern Mediterranean by threatening Greece and Cyprus over rights to explore for oil and gas in Cypriot waters, which has caused some experts to fear armed conflict between NATO members Greece and Turkey. He signed an agreement last month with the GNA to extend Turkey's maritime boundary to link up with Libya's and promised military assistance.
SADAT opposes NATO, and its founder, Brig. Gen. Adnan Tanriverdi, is Erdogan's military adviser and longtime friend. He advocates the establishment of a pan-Muslim army instead of NATO.
"It is also SADAT that decides on promotions in ranks of the Turkish military," Bozkurt said. "I would say the U.S. and Europe must be concerned a lot about SADAT's encroachment against transatlantic alliance."