The German federal government will not be renewing the deployment of its Patriot Missile Defense Battery, stationed in Turkey’s southeast in 2012 to protect against possible missile attacks by the Syrian regime, once their current duty expires at the beginning of 2016.
Following a report in German news magazine Der Spiegel alleging that the German Armed Forces would be pulling out of Turkey when their current deployment ends at the beginning of 2016, officials from the German Ministry of Defense confirmed to news broadcaster Deutsche Welle that they would be withdrawing the troops when their parliamentary mandate expires on January 31st.
Currently 250 German soldiers and two Patriot Missile Defense Battery are stationed in the southeastern province of Kahramanmaraş 160 kilometers (100 miles) inland from the Syrian border. The troops were sent there in 2012 when NATO partner Turkey requested assistance against possible ballistic missile attack by the Assad regime in Syria.
The deployment, which included two batteries each from the US and the Netherlands as well, is referred to as the “Active Fence” NATO mission and protects a stretch of around 100 kilometers (60 miles) along Turkey’s border with Syria.
However with no attacks forthcoming – “Militarily the [Assad] regime is under such massive pressure that an attack on the NATO partner Turkey would be a suicide mission” noted Der Spiegel – there has been a push to end the deployment since 2014.
The Netherlands already withdrew their two batteries earlier this year, and Der Spiegel claims it has obtained reliable information that the US wants to end their deployment in October 2015. Thus the German withdrawal would be the end of the NATO mission.
Der Spiegel also said that the government planned on Saturday to inform the Bundestag, or German parliament, of its decision to end the German contribution to “Active Fence.”
Der Spiegel also claimed that the issue of the German deployment had come up following Turkey’s ongoing military campaign against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an issue of significant domestic controversy in Germany.
Recognized as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, the PKK waged an armed separatist war against Turkey for over 30 years resulting in more than 40,000 casualties, but maintained a rocky ceasefire with Ankara since 2013 until last month.
Turkish military has launched a campaign against PKK targets both inside Turkey and north Iraq following retaliatory attacks by the PKK against Turkish security forces in the wake of a deadly suicide bombing that killed 33 pro-Kurdish and leftwing activists.
However German news agency DPA contradicted Der Spiegel’s claim that the PKK operations had any role in the decision to withdraw from ‘Active Fence,’ saying the decision to not renew the mandate had already been made before the violence between Turkish security forces and Kurdish militants had broken out.
The DPA’s sources claimed instead that the withdrawal is not because of any increased danger to German troops due to the escalation of violence in the region, another claim put forward by Der Spiegel, but rather over the mission no longer being deemed necessary, especially considering its high burden on personnel and materials.
Source: BGN News