The United States will remove its Patriot missile defense force out of Turkey when the agreement to station them there expires in October.
The reason for the move, according to the Defense Department, is largely because the U.S. sees a declining Syrian military threat that can be contained by other means.
“The threat calculus has changed somewhat since 2013, as we’ve seen the Assad regime grow weaker and as we’ve seen them shoot through the majority of their missile stock at targets there domestically,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters Monday.
The Syrian government fired a large number of its Scud missiles, which had the range to strike Turkish territory, at targets inside Syria during the early stages of the country’s civil war.
“That has now widely stopped,” Davis said.
The U.S. sent the two Patriot missile defense batteries to Turkey in 2013 as part of a NATO response to a request from Turkey for support against Syrian missiles.
Washington remains committed to Turkey’s protection through a “persistent presence of U.S. Navy multi-role Aegis ships in the eastern Mediterranean,” says the U.S. embassy in Ankara.
The Pentagon also says it is prepared to return the Patriot batteries to Turkey within one week, if needed.
Davis said the timing of the move allows the U.S. to start a “critical modernization upgrade” of the system. He said the Pentagon looked at the locations of all of its Patriot systems across the globe to assess where they were most needed and where they could be removed.
“We don't necessarily assess this (Turkey) as being the highest priority globally for where these missiles should be,'' he said.
No Patriot batteries in Turkey were used since their deployment in 2013. The batteries are not expected to return to Turkey after the multi-year upgrades are complete, the spokesman told VOA.