NATO has begun deploying Patriot surface-to-air (SAM) missiles along Turkey’s border with Syria.
On Friday, US troops were being airlifted to Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey to operate the missiles, which are allegedly meant to protect Turkey from Syrian attacks, the Associated Press reported.
The Patriot systems, which are being deployed by the United States, Germany, and the Netherlands, are scheduled to become operational later this month.
Over the coming days, the US military plans to dispatch nearly 400 personnel, along with equipment, to Turkey.
In November 2012, NATO announced a plan to deploy six batteries to “protect Turkey” from potential Syrian missile strikes.
The US and Germany are providing two Patriot batteries and about 400 troops each to operate the missiles. The Netherlands will also dispatch 360 troops and the other two batteries.
Each Patriot battery has an average of 12 missile launchers.
The deputy chief of the US European Command, Navy Vice Admiral Charles Martoglio, stated that the Patriots are not meant for “any offensive operation” in Syria.
"Turkey is an important NATO ally and we welcome the opportunity to support the Turkish government's request in accordance with the NATO standing defense plan," Martoglio was quoted as saying on Friday.
Damascus has censured Ankara’s plan to deploy the Patriot missiles along the Syrian border, calling it another act of provocation by the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Syria crisis began in March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of army and security personnel, have been killed.
The Syrian government says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the insurgents are foreign nationals.