2,000 foreign troops expected in Turkey as part of Patriot deployment

German troops who will work on the deployment of the Patriot missile system in Turkey arrived in the southern province of Kahramanmaraş early on Tuesday. (Photo: Cihan, Ömer Kebeli)

December 18, 2012, Tuesday/ 00:13:00

In an atmosphere of tense relations between Turkey and war-torn Syria, 2,000 foreign troops are expected to be deployed in various Turkish provinces along the country's border with Syria to operate the Patriot surface-to-air defense system in a move to bolster Turkey's air defense system against any possible threats from its southern neighbor.

The United States, Germany and the Netherlands, the only three NATO members with the most advanced type of Patriot missiles, have all agreed to send the missiles to protect ally Turkey.

Nearly 2,000 troops from the US, the Netherlands and Germany are expected to be based in Turkey for a year to command the missile system, which can intercept any missile threat originating from Syria.

Hundreds of Turkish troops will also take part in the mission to provide security to the foreign troops as they operate the Patriot system.

Turkey asked NATO for the Patriot missile system, designed to intercept aircraft and missiles within a certain range, in November to help strengthen its border security after repeated episodes of gunfire and shells from Syria landed in Turkish territory.

The sites for the Patriot missile system were determined after a delegation of NATO officials surveyed several possible sites in southern and southeastern Turkey.

Two Patriot batteries provided by the United States will be deployed in the southern province of Adana, while two Patriot batteries provided by the Netherlands will be installed in the southeastern province of Gaziantep along the Syrian border and two other batteries provided by Germany are to be operational in the southern province of Kahramanmaraş.

Germany and the Netherlands have each said they will send two Patriot batteries with multiple missile launchers. Washington has recently authorized the dispatch of two Patriot batteries and 400 troops to Turkey to shore up its NATO ally's defense in the face of a possible threat from Syria.

Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) surface-to-air missiles, which are capable of intercepting ballistic missiles, are expected to be deployed instead of the PAC-2 version of the missiles.

Each battery has four to six missile launchers and each launcher has the capacity to launch 16 missiles. A total of six missile batteries would be able to launch at least 500 missiles in response to attacks. The Patriot system is expected to be operational by the end of January.

Political considerations also played a role in the selection of sites for the deployment of the missile systems.

The southern province of Hatay, also bordering Syria and host to thousands of Syrian refugees, was not chosen for the deployment of the Patriot system as a considerable number of Arab Alawites, who belong to the sect Syrian President Bashar al-Assad subscribes to and who show no hesitation in displaying their endorsement of the embattled Syrian regime, live there.

The southeastern province of Diyarbakır, which hosts the closest NATO base to Syria, has also not been chosen for the deployment of the missiles out of security concerns.

Turkish officials believe the Syrian regime could provoke restive Kurdish citizens against NATO troops in the event of missile deployment in the province.

Officials work on details of Patriot deployment

With NATO's mission of the German and Dutch troops responsible for the operation of the Patriot systems in Turkey having arrived in the southern province of Kahramanmaraş on Tuesday, military officials are now working on the details to clarify the scope of cooperation, to review the rules of engagement with Syria after the missile deployment and other details pertaining to financial and logistical issues.

The NATO mission arrived in Adana on Monday in a Turkish Air Force cargo jet and spent the night at NATO's İncirlik Air Base.

They were taken to Kahramanmaraş on Tuesday morning in two separate buses and are being escorted by Turkish military officials.

Whether the nearly 2,000 foreign troops will stay in military bases or civilian hotels will be determined after choosing the exact sites for the missile deployment.

The more vital issue is the reconsideration of existing military rules of engagement with Syria after the deployment of the Patriots. This will be determined after mutual consultations and joint planning between the host country and its allies.

Officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the fact that the missile deployment is purely for defensive purposes will be stressed in the new document which will redefine Turkey's stance on the military rules of engagement.

The deployment of the Patriot missile system will also provide training to the Allies to test the system on the ground against any real threats.