SADAT: Turkey’s Shadow Army in Africa
July 2, 2020
July 2, 2020
This Grey Dynamics African Intelligence Article analyses the SADAT paramilitary group, and the political de facto implications placed on Turkish-African relations and security amid an increase in cooperation with nation-states.
SADAT Inc. International Defense Consultancy is a Turkish private security contractor, founded by former Gen. Adnan Tanrıverdiin 2012. Reports allege that SADAT presence exists in Syria and Iraq, in the form of paramilitary troops, training, and military ordnance procurement. Tanrıverdi was forced into retirement in 1996, due to Islamist affiliations. There is a close relationship with SADAT and the Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, with many anti-Justice and Development Party (AKP) voices raising concerns other a potential proxy force being utilised by Erdogan to extend the Turkish sphere of influence and interests globally.
It is important to note that Tanriverdi was appointed as Erdogan’s official chief advisor, up until January 2020, following the 15th July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. Concerning allegations exist that SADAT has been involved in the training and aid of Salafist ideologies in the Middle East and Africa, in line with Tanriverdi’s views expressed as a columnist with Yeni Akit, a pro-Erdogan newspaper, sympathetic with Islamic extremist groups. An alleged 3,000 foreign fighters operating in Syria and Libya have received training from SADAT, while Michael Rubin from the American Enterprise Institute argues that ISIS and Al-Nusra members were part of the SADAT training operations. This creates an asymmetrical warfare tool, noticeable in Libya and a growing presence in the rest of Africa.
27th November 2019, Turkey signed a military cooperation deal with Libya which includes the provision of “guest personnel”. Much personnel of SADAT consist of Turkish military experts, forced to leave the army because of extremist views. SADAT is implicated in the reports of alleged Syrian fighters in Libya, supporting UN-recognised Government of National Accord, denied by the Libyan government. This places Turkey’s backed SADAT forces against Russian security firm Wagner Group, who in comparison allegedly are backing Field-Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army with mercenaries on the battlefield.
A significant force, trained by SADAT, was sent to Libya which Ahmet K. Aytar claims consisted of former Daesh and Muslim Brotherhood members. The GNA consists of a mainly Muslim Brotherhood ideology of members, stimulated by a flow of fighters and Turkey’s drone army, the GNA has turned the tide in Libya. Before he resigned, Tanriverdi stated that his company was paving the way for the messianic figure of Imam Mahdi, it is believed by some Muslims that Mahdi will arrive to redeem mankind.
It is highly likely that Turkish military aid has influenced the effectiveness of the LNA offence.
Turkey has an expanding network with more than 35 African countries and a growing number of military training agreements. SADAT presence has been reported in the Suakin port in Sudan, a potential strategic outpost for Turkey. The port was once a historic Ottoman port, signalling a revival of Turkey’s influence and intentions in Africa. More recently in 2020, Turkey secured closer military cooperation deals with Uganda and Guinea.
Tanriverdi has declared the intent to work closer with African countries for military training but has also previously argued that Turkey should support Islamic groups against state terrorism: “In addition, I think that discriminatory and foreign-backed state terrorism targeting Islamic groups in some critical regions of Africa such as the Central African Republic, Mali and Nigeria, and preventive measures [to protect those groups] should be studied carefully,” Tanrıverdi said.
Turkey is currently being investigated over allegations that it supplied military equipment to Boko Haram by the Nigerian Armed Forces. It is almost certain that SADAT is loyal to Erdogan’s regime. What these indicators suggest is that Turkey’s paramilitary wings in Africa have well and truly taken off, for better or worse.
Eren Ersozoglu is an analyst / contributor intern at Grey Dynamics. A former history graduate from Coventry University with a focus on links between terrorism and organised crime studying an MA in intelligence and security studies at Brunel University.