U.S. troops in Turkey on defense mission

Jan. 4, 2013 at 7:24 AM

ANKARA, Turkey, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- U.S. troops arrived in Turkey as part of a coalition that will operate Patriot missile defense batteries near the Syrian border, officials said.

The troops arrived in the southeastern province of Gaziantep Thursday and planned to survey the site where the system was to be installed Friday, Today's Zaman reported.

The Syrian government had launched Scud missiles at its cities near the Turkish border, prompting Turkey to ask NATO for the missile batteries to defend itself against a possible attack by its neighbor, engaged in a civil war since March 2011. The United States, Germany and the Netherlands deployed Patriot air-defense missiles to the border region to intercept any Syrian ballistic missiles.

The missiles and troops will be under NATO control but the missiles will be operated by U.S. forces, CNN reported.

"We've made very clear to them that were going to protect countries in this region," U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last month. "We have to act to do what we have to do to make sure that we defend ourselves and make sure that Turkey can defend itself."

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