ANKARA- U.S. troops have started to arrive in Turkey to man Patriot missiles deployed along border with Syria, the U.S. military said Friday.
The United States, Germany and the Netherlands are each deploying two batteries of the U.S.-built defense system to boost ally Turkey's air defenses against embattled Syria where US backed rebels are fighting a bloody war against the government of Bashar-al-Asad.
The Patriot systems are expected to become operational later this month.
The Stuttgart, Germany-based U.S. European Command said in a statement that U.S. personnel and equipment had started arriving at Turkey's southern Incirlik Air Base. Some 400 personnel and equipment from the U.S. military's Fort Sill, Oklahoma-based 3rd Battalion were to be airlifted to Turkey over the coming days, while additional equipment was expected to reach Turkey by sea later in January, the Command said.
NATO endorsed Turkey's request for the Patriots on Nov. 30 after several Syrian shells landed on Turkish territory.
Ankara, along with other US allies in the region like Saudi Arabia are supporting the Syrian rebels which many see as an attempt by them to break the so called Axis of Resistance comprising of Iran, Hezbollah and Damascus.
More than 1,000 American, German and Dutch troops are to be based in Turkey to assist Turks.
NATO said the Americans will be based at Gaziantep, 50 kilometers north of Syria. The Germans will be based at Kahramanmaras, located about 100 kilometers north of the Syrian border; the Dutch at Adana, about 100 kilometers west of the border.
"Turkey is an important NATO ally and we welcome the opportunity to support the Turkish government's request in accordance with the NATO standing defense plan," it quoted Martoglio as saying.
Last month, a top military commander from Iran a key Syrian ally warned Turkey against stationing the NATO systems on its territory, saying such a move risks conflict with Syria. Agencies
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