US soldiers work on a Patriot missile system at a Turkish military base in February. The US will keep two missile batteries in Turkey for another year, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday. (Bulent Kilic / Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — The United States will keep two Patriot missile batteries in Turkey for another year to help bolster the country’s air defenses against threats from Syria’s civil war, the Pentagon said Monday.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Washington’s decision in talks at the Pentagon that focused on the conflict in Syria, a spokesman said.
Hagel “conveyed to Minister Davutoglu that the United States has decided to continue its contribution of two Patriot batteries under NATO command and control for up to one additional year,” Pentagon spokesman Carl Woog said in a statement.
Turkey had made a formal request to NATO to extend the deployment of the surface-to-air Patriot missiles, which are designed to counter aircraft and short-range missiles.
The United States, the Netherlands and Germany have provided a total of six Patriots along the Turkish border with Syria.
Turkey was once an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but now backs the opposition fighting to topple the embattled leader.
At Monday’s talks, Hagel and Davutoglu also discussed “the imperative to eliminate the regime’s chemical weapons and achieve a political transition” in Syria, Woog said.
Ankara has faced an influx of refugees from Syria, and Hagel “praised Turkey’s actions to provide humanitarian relief to the people of Syria,” he added.
The 32-month war has reportedly killed more than 120,000 people and displaced millions.