The Kurdish Rudaw news agency reports that American Patriot missile batteries have been withdrawn from the Syrian border in southeastern Turkey. Their two-year deployment began in 2013, and was not renewed after it expired this month.
“Patriots and personnel were deployed in Gaziantep after Turkey appealed to its NATO allies to guard against any missile threat from war-torn Syria,” Rudaw reports.
There was some controversy over the summer when Germany announced it would withdraw its Patriot missiles from Turkey next year. At the time, the U.S. was petitioning Turkey to allow the use of its Incirlik airbase for American missions against ISIS. U.S. negotiators delayed announcing the impending removal of our missiles because it was feared the Turks would take umbrage and deny American forces the use of their airfield.
The New York Times described Turkish officials as “livid” over the pending recall of the Patriots, which they requested after a Turkish jet was downed by Syrian forces in 2012. The Turks were also concerned about the possibility of errant Scud missiles fired by the Assad regime landing in their territory. Both American and German officials have cited the diminished missile threat from Syria as reasons for removing their Patriot batteries.
Turkey would appear to disagree. “We do not think this is the best time to withdraw these batteries. This is a delicate time for our border with Syria,” a Turkish official said over the weekend, as quoted by Defense News. The report goes on to suggest that Turkey might be more worried about Russian jets than Syrian Scud missiles these days.
“The US move also coincided with NATO statements that the alliance was prepared to send ground forces to defend its member state,” Defense News adds.