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Turkey will lead NATO's high-readiness force in 2021

Turkey will lead NATO's high-readiness force in 2021
Turkish armed forces, pictured training a mechanized infantry team from Qatar, will lead NATO's Very High Readiness Joint Task Force in 2021, the alliance announced on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Turkish Defense Ministry

Dec. 30 (UPI) -- NATO's Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, its quick-deployment unit of 6,400 personnel, will be led in 2021 by Turkey, the military bloc said on Wednesday.

Turkey will take over the responsibility from Poland on Jan. 1, a NATO statement said.

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Leadership of the VJTF, which places soldiers on standby status and ready to deploy, rotates annually among NATO members, with the majority of the force's personnel comprised of units from the lead country.

The approximately 4,200 troops of Turkey's 66th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Command, and about 2,200 more from Albania, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Britain and the United States, will serve in the unit.

NATO formed the VJTF in 2014 in response to crises at the time in the Middle East and the Russian military incursion in Crimea.

The NATO statement called the Turkish brigade "amongst the most mobile in NATO, particularly in its logistics and ammunition requirements planning."

The alliance also noted in the statement that "the latest models of Turkish armed vehicles, anti-tank missiles and howitzers have been allocated to the force."

Turkey, a NATO member since 1952, was sanctioned by the United States earlier in December for its 2017 purchase of a Russian missile defense system.

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The country has also been embroiled in a diplomatic conflict with Cyprus and NATO member Greece over off-shore oil drilling in the Mediterranean.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been criticized by NATO leaders for anti-democratic internal policies and the country's involvement in the Syrian civil war.

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