Pentagon: Pulling out Patriots will not lessen US loyalty to help Turkey's defense
by Daily Sabah
ISTANBULAug 19, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Daily Sabah
Aug 19, 2015 12:00 am
Following the U.S. decision to pull out its Patriot missile defense batteries stationed in Turkey's Gaziantep province, Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis cleared up the misunderstanding that the move might negatively affect the partnership with Turkey in a statement on Monday and said: "The move will not lessen the U.S. commitment to helping defend Turkey against threats from Syria."
Davis said the batteries would return to the U.S. for upgrades and added that a decline in the Syrian military threat considering the depleted stockpile of Scud missiles, which have a potential to reach Turkey, is seen as a reason for the decision to pull the Patriot batteries out.
"The threat calculus has changed somewhat since 2013, as we've seen the [Bashar] Assad regime grow weaker and as we've seen them shoot through the majority of their missile stock at targets there domestically," he said.
In June 2012, a Turkish F-4 was shot down by Syrian forces, although they received no warning or admonition from Syrian military authorities, and the two pilots of the jet, Flight Lieutenant Gökhan Ertan and Flying Officer Hasan Hüseyin Aksoy, were killed in the attack.
According to a joint statement issued by the U.S. and Turkey on Aug.16, the U.S. deployment of Patriot air and missile defense units in Turkey, which have been in Turkey as part of a broader NATO mission since 2013 expiring in October, will not be renewed after the end of its current rotation. However, it is also emphasized in the statement that if needed, the U.S. is prepared to return the batteries and personnel to Turkey within one week.
"As the United States deploys additional air assets and partners with Turkey to counter [ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham], 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 statement said stressing the U.S. commitment to help in Turkey's defense against threats coming from Syria.
The cooperation between Turkey and the U.S., especially in the fight against ISIS, has been increasing after Ankara agreed to let the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition use İncirlik Air Base to stage operations to counter ISIS. Last week, the U.S. military announced that six F16 fighter jets had arrived at İncirlik and began flying missions over Syria on Wednesday.
Although the U.S. has long rejected Turkish and other requests for a no-fly zone to halt Syrian government air raids due to fears that it would draw U.S. forces further into the civil war, the country now supports the plan and has declared that the two countries will cooperate to create an ISIS-free zone, from which the terrorist organization's militants will be cleared out.