US general says American army has ‘few' personnel in Turkey
Lieutenant-General Mark P. Hertling, commander in chief of the US Armed Forces in Europe, speaks at the inauguration ceremony of the new European headquarters of the US Army in Wiesbaden-Erbenheim, Germany, 14 June 2012. (Photo: EPA)
US Army Europe Commander Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling has said the US army has had “few” personnel recently in Turkey in a bid to assist Turkey in handling the spillover of the Syrian crisis to its ally.
"We have had a relatively few number of US Army Europe personnel in Turkey recently. Some of that has been sharing intelligence," the general was quoted as saying American news magazine US News & World Report on Tuesday. The report said the general warned during a breakfast meeting with a group of reporters in Washington of “a humanitarian crisis along the border of Syria and Turkey with refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria in record numbers and the steady approach of winter snows.”
Hertling said the number of refugees at the Syrian border attempting to flee the bloody fighting in their war-torn homeland is tens of thousands more than previous estimates. The figure is far beyond the 100,000 limit Turkish officials said earlier that the country could withstand.
The US general's remarks follows news reports earlier this month that the US stationed troops in Turkey near the Syrian border as Syria's civil war threatens to spill over into bordering countries.
British daily The Times recently reported that US and French special forces had been stationed for weeks at İncirlik Air Base in the southern province of Adana close to the Syrian border.
The Turkish General Staff denied the report and said no foreign soldiers are stationed along the border with Syria.
Washington earlier confirmed that the US was assisting Turkey in dealing with a number of issues emanating from the crisis in Syria. Speaking at a press conference earlier this month at the end of a two-day meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that the US has “reached out to Turkey as well.”
Asked if the US is also assisting Turkey along the border with Syria, Panetta said: “We have been in discussion with them on the very same issues, assisting them on the humanitarian side. They also are obviously concerned about the CBW sites as well. So we've worked with them as well to do what we can to monitor that situation. And we are providing whatever assistance they need to deal with the problems they are incurring.” However, the defense secretary did not elaborate on what kind of assistance is being offered.