220 Libyan soldiers start military training in Turkey


The first group of 220 Libyan Army soldiers to be trained by a coalition of US, European Union (EU) countries has started undergoing a 14 week-long military training course at the Isparta Domestic Security Training Centre near the city of Isparta in western Turkey.

In terms of a defence and security co-operation agreement signed between the two government in April 2012, Turkey will train nearly 3 000 Libyan troops in line with a EU-led mission to rebuild the Libyan Army and strengthen national defence and security institutions which crumbled during the revolution which finally ousted Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011.

Reports from the Turkish capital Istanbul said the Libyan soldiers landed in Isparta on Saturday and were immediately taken through the drills in preparation for three and a half months of a gruelling commando training curriculum.

The training covers basic military skills and is run in terms of the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in military training signed between the two countries last year.

On arrival, the Libyan soldiers were provided with uniforms and drill equipment after going through a health screening exercise and receiving vaccinations to boost their immunity against local diseases.

The group is the first batch in a total of 15 000 Libyan troops who will be trained in the next five years by a coalition of military partners which includes the US, France, Italy, United Kingdom and some Middle Eastern Gulf Arab countries.

Some of the Libyan troops are set for training in military academies in the UK, Italy and France while the US will conduct the bulk of its Libyan Army training programmes in Bulgaria.

Two years after NATO missiles helped rebels drive out Muammar Gaddafi, Libya is under siege from former rebel fighters who now flex their military muscle to make demands on the state, seize oilfields and squabble over post-war spoils.

Turkey, Italy, and Britain are leading the way with promises to train around 8 000 troops and police in skills from infantry basics to forensics. Other recruits are graduating from programmes in Jordan.

Officials say the Libyan Army has 5 000 troops in training overseas and 10 000 in Libya. At least 3 000 were in Tripoli after the militia withdrawal last month and special forces units are in Benghazi, one diplomat said.

Italy and Turkey are training police. Britain will start early next year giving training to 2 000 infantry troops with instruction mostly given overseas.

Washington is still considering cooperation proposals, including a plan for groups of Libyan soldiers to rotate though Bulgaria for training.

Adm. William McRaven, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, has said the U.S. military was working to train 5 000 to 7 000 Libyans. He acknowledged a risk that some recruits tied to militias may not have “clean records.”

Turkey trained 800 police cadets who graduated in February, but so far Libya has been unable to send a second batch because of state “decision-making” problems, one official said.

Lack of modern equipment, basic skill levels and limited army facilities make training difficult; Gaddafi-era rivalries between departments mean coordination is often non-existent.

Some Libyan forces start from scratch. Coast guards, for example, often went out without life-jackets before training started and borrowed fishing vessels to make voyages to sea.