US, Germany to end anti-Assad missile system in Turkey

Published August 17th, 2015 - 06:00 GMT

The United States and Germany are pulling Patriot missile systems out of Turkey, according to official statements.

The missiles, along with crews to operate them, had been deployed to positions in southern Turkey near the Syrian border in 2013 as a measure to defend against the Syrian military following cross-border shelling that killed several Turks.

The United States and Turkey issued a joint statement Sunday, saying, "The US has informed the Turkish government that the US deployment of Patriot air and missile defense units in Turkey which expires in October will not be renewed beyond the end of the current rotation."

The missiles will be redeployed to the United States for "critical modernization upgrades that will ensure the US missile defense force remains capable of countering evolving global threats and protecting Allies and partners, including Turkey," the statement said.

The announcement comes less than a week after Pentagon officials said six US Air Force F-16 fighter aircraft and about 300 personnel arrived at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, in support of the US-led coalition air campaign against the Islamic State.

Turkey had in July announced it would allow its bases to be used against IS forces -- and itself began conducting airstrikes against the group -- following a suicide bombing that killed at least 27 people in Suruc, Turkey, near the Syrian border, earlier in the month.

"As the United States deploys additional air assets and partners with Turkey to counter [IS], the United States will also continue to work closely with Turkey on how to support Turkey's air defense capabilities, including against ballistic missile risks and threats," Sunday's statement said, adding that the missiles could be returned in a week's time and that support was also available from US Navy Aegis ships in the Mediterranean Sea.

Germany's defense ministry announced on Saturday it would withdraw its Patriot missiles and about 250 troops from Turkey in January 2016.

The statement quoted German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen as saying IS posed the primary threat in Syria, rather than the Assad regime.

By Fred Lambert


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