U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has signed an order to send 2 Patriot air defense missile batteries and 400 American troops to Turkey as part of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization effort to protect Turkish territory from a potential cross-border missile attack by Syria.
Panetta signed the deployment order Friday en route to Turkey from Afghanistan (photo), according to Pentagon Press Secretary George Little.
“The purpose of this deployment is to signal very strongly that the United States, working closely with our NATO allies, is going to support the defense of Turkey,” Little told reporters aboard the Secretary's plane.
The order calls for 400 US soldiers to operate 2 batteries of Patriots at undisclosed locations in Turkey, Little said.
Turkey is a founding member of NATO and requested that the alliance provide Patriots. They will be sent by NATO members Germany and the Netherlands as well as the U.S. for an undetermined period.
During a brief stop at Incirlik Air Base, Panetta told U.S. troops that Turkey might need the Patriots, which are capable of shooting down shorter-range ballistic missiles as well as aircraft.
He said he approved the deployment “so that we can help Turkey have the kind of missile defense it may very well need to deal with the threats coming out of Syria.”
Panetta said the President has made clear there would be serious consequences if Syria uses chemical weapons, and that the U.S. “a number of options that we can deploy if we have to.”
He did not mention how soon the 2 Patriot batteries will head to Turkey or how long they might stay.
Incirlik is about 60 miles from the Syrian border.
Source: The Associated Press - AP