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U.S. To Withdraw Patriot Missile System From Turkey

German military vehicles carrying equipment for NATO Patriot missiles are deployed at a military base in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, in January 2013.
German military vehicles carrying equipment for NATO Patriot missiles are deployed at a military base in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, in January 2013.
By RFE/RL

The United States says it will withdraw its Patriot air- and missile-defense units near Turkey’s border with Syria when the mission’s mandate ends in October.

Washington and Ankara said in a joint August 16 statement that the units, which have been deployed in Turkey as part of a NATO mission, will be returned to the United States for “critical modernization upgrades” but could be returned to Turkey "within one week" if necessary.

The United States, Germany, and other countries deployed air-defense units to fellow NATO member Turkey in 2013 in response to shells fired from neighboring war-torn Syria that landed in the country.

The statement said U.S. Navy ships would remain in the eastern Mediterranean to assist Turkey's defenses and NATO missions.

It said the decision to withdraw the Patriot system followed “a U.S. review of global missile-defense posture.”

The announcement came a day after Germany said it would withdraw its Patriot missiles and 250 troops currently stationed in Turkey when its air-defense mission ends on January 31.

A spokesman with the German Defense Ministry said the move was based on an assessment that the threat of missile attacks from Syria had diminished significantly.

Germany said the primary threat in the region came from Islamic State (IS) militants, who do not possess missiles.

Ankara last month launched air strikes against IS militants in Iraq and Syria and has allowed U.S. forces to use an air base in southern Turkey to target the extremist group, also known as ISIL.

“As the United States deploys additional air assets and partners with Turkey to counter ISIL, the United States will also continue to work closely with Turkey on how to support Turkey’s air-defense capabilities, including against ballistic-missile risks and threats,” the two allies said in the August 16 statement.

With reporting by AP and dpa

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