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U.S. Has Deployed Half of Patriot Missile Equipment, Troops to Turkey

By Rachel Oswald

Global Security Newswire

WASHINGTON -- Approximately 200 U.S. military personnel are already in Turkey as part of a larger deployment to staff two Patriot missile batteries that are intended to protect the NATO ally against feared ballistic missile strikes or other airborne threats from neighboring Syria, the Defense Department said on Tuesday.

The U.S. Patriot units in Turkey will be complemented by four batteries provided by Germany and the Netherlands. Ankara requested the air-defense aid in late 2012 after Turkish territory was hit by shells fired during the Syrian civil war. There are also continued international fears the Bashar Assad regime might carry out chemical weapon attacks.

“Roughly half of the 400 troops that are part of this effort have made their way to Turkey and about half of the equipment,” Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters at a press briefing. All military personnel and Patriot system equipment are expected to be in place by the end of the month, he said.

U.S. Patriot missiles, according to earlier reports, are to be fielded some 31 miles north of the Turkish-Syrian border. The antimissile systems will remain in Turkey for up to a year if needed, Little said. “We’re going to continue to monitor the situation” with Syria.

Germany and the Netherlands this week also began sending the bulk of their Patriot equipment to Turkey.

Providing air and missile defense protection “is something that we believe is very important for our alliance with Turkey,” Little said.

Turkish territory is within targeting distance of Syrian ballistic missiles that can be fitted with chemical payloads taken from the nation's large stockpile of nerve and blister agents.

Little reaffirmed Obama administration warnings to Damascus that any chemical weapons use would cross a red line and “be totally unacceptable.” He declined requests to clarify what exactly constitutes the administration's red line.

The spokesman said he is unaware of any new information that Damascus is planning an imminent chemical attack.

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