The independent Turkish news source Ahval along investigative journalists on the ground in Syria and Libya have picked up on a disturbing trend: many among the reported thousands of Syrian ‘rebel’ mercenaries being transferred to Tripoli to fight on behalf of the UN-backed government there against pro-Haftar forces believe they are being sent “to fight the Russians”. Ahval news reports the following:
To boost motivation, Turkey is telling Syrian rebels it is sending to Libya they will fight Russians, the Investigative Journal said on Wednesday, citing sources in Turkish-backed Syrian National Army.
“There are Russians here,” said a 21-year-old Syrian mercenary from Kafr Nabl, a town in Syria’s Idlib province. “The Turks confirmed this to us. I wouldn’t even hurt a Libyan here. But if I find a Russian, I will put a stick up his ass.”
Since last month Ankara has confirmed that Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army fighters are being flown into Tripoli to back the Government of National Accord, busy defending the Libyan capital from a months-long offensive by Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).
“With the help of the Turkish forces and their equipment, we will defeat the Russians,” one Syrian militant said. It’s apparently become a widespread running joke that the mercenaries being sent to Libya blindly “believe whatever Turkey tells them”.
“Of course there are no Russian soldiers there. If the Turks tell them there are Russian troops in Libya, and that the [TFSA] will get fight them, they believe they are fighting the same enemy that is destroying their cities in Syria,” another local Syrian commander told investigative reporter Lindsey Snell. “But of course, this is a lie, and Libya is not Syria. But these mercenaries believe whatever Turkey tells them.”
The Ahval report says that some 4,700 Turkey-backed Syrian mercenaries have been transferred to Libya over the past month, which reportedly began happening even before the Turkish government last month ago voted to send military assistance and national army troops to assist and advise Tripoli forces.
Meanwhile, Moscow has been considered a significant political backer to Gen. Haftar, but most of the LNA’s military support comes from the UAE. There’s been no reporting or suggestion that any Russian national forces or advisers are inside Libya, other than possibly private contractors.
Last September it was widely reported that some one hundred Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group have been bolstering pro-Haftar forces.