US announces plans to withdraw Patriot batteries from Turkey
The US has announced plans to withdraw its Patriot air and missile defence batteries that are deployed along Turkey's south-eastern border to counter increasing airstrikes by neighbouring Syria, in October.
In January 2013, the US, along with Germany and the Netherlands, had deployed two Patriot batteries in Turkey as part of a Nato mission to augment Turkey's air defences against the threat posed by Syria's short-range ballistic missiles.
The German and US batteries were stationed in Kahramanmaras and Gaziantep, respectively, while the Dutch systems were deployed to the south-eastern city of Adana.
While the two-year mission expires in October, the US has decided against renewing the agreement, and will instead redeploy the batteries to home for critical upgrades that will ensure readiness of the US missile defence force to counter evolving global threats and protecting allies and partners.
A joint Turkish-US statement said: "This decision follows a US review of global missile defence posture.
"The United States and Nato are committed to supporting Turkey's security and regional stability.
"If needed, the United States is prepared to return Patriot assets and personnel to Turkey within one week."
The Netherlands completed their mission in January this year, and were replaced by the Spanish unit.
Germany has confirmed that it will not seek parliamentary approval to extend its three-year Patriot mission that expires in January 2016.
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen was quoted by Reuters as saying that the nature of the threat to Turkey from Syria had changed from one posed primarily by President Bashar al-Assad to the one coming from the Islamic State militants.
Von der Leyen said:"Therefore, we will remain engaged in the region in a continued effort to stabilise it."
Image: US military personnel stand by a Patriot missile battery in Gaziantep, Turkey. Photo: courtesy of DoD Photo By Glenn Fawcett.