Nearly 2,000 foreign troops are expected to be deployed along Turkey’s border with Syria to operate the surface-to-air Patriot missile batteries, a report says. The Turkish daily Today’s Zaman on Tuesday reported that the troops will be from the United States, Germany and the Netherlands. The three NATO members have agreed to send the missiles to the border region.
Last week, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in an exclusive interview with CBS News that Turkey will receive six Patriot missile batteries from the US, Germany and the Netherlands, the only three NATO members with the most advanced type of such missiles.All the six batteries will be under the NATO command and are expected to be operational by the end of January 2013. Panetta said the missile batteries are to bolster Turkey against what he called ‘attacks from neighboring Syria.’ Hundreds of Turkish troops will also provide security for the foreign troops as they operate the Patriot system. The agreement to deploy missiles on Turkey’s border with Syria comes after months of fierce fighting between the Syrian army and the foreign-backed militants. Many people, including large numbers of security forces, have been killed in the turmoil that began in Syria in March 2011. Turkey claims it needs the Patriot missiles to defend itself against Syria. However, members of the Turkish opposition say there has never been any threat from the Syrian side and that Ankara’s claim is to strengthen Turkey’s own military presence in the region. MSH/HSN/MA