The Libyan government apparently wants to share its successful experience of overthrowing the Gaddafi regime with like-minded Syrians. It has sent 600 of its troops to support local militants against the Assad regime, according to media reports.
The fighters have joined the Free Syria Army, the militant group carrying out attacks on government forces in Syria, reports the Egyptian news website Al-Ray Al-Arabi citing its sources. The report says the troops entered Syria through Turkish territory.
The alleged incursion happened with the consent of the chairman of the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) Mustafa Abdul Jalil. The NTC allegedly welcomed volunteers to join the surge.
Last Friday British media reported a secret meeting between NTC envoys and Syrian rebels had been held in Istanbul. The Libyan governing body reportedly pledged to supply arms, money and fighters to the Syrians.
Bashar Assad’s government has repeatedly accused foreign forces of smuggling armed groups and weapons into Syria and thus fueling the ongoing violence.
In mid-October the Libyan NTC was the first government to recognize the rebel Syrian National Council as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people.
The Libyan population is in possession of many weapons, which they received during the civil war by plundering military depots, through smuggling or as aid from NATO members and countries like Qatar, which took part in the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi. The NTC has difficulties in disarming the ex-rebels, who want to keep their firearms, either for personal protection or as means to make their living.
In November, the Libyan capital, Tripoli, saw a mass protest by the rebels, who demanded that the NTC pay their wages. Some even threatened to overthrow the new government the way they did with the previous one, unless their demands are met.
Funneling armed, underemployed and eager-to-fight youngsters to another country could be a convenient move for the NTC. The Syrian government, however, is likely to see them as mercenaries, which NATO member Turkey allowed into their country as an alternative to a full-scale military campaign, which is impossible without the sanction of the United Nations Security Council.