Category: Politics / January 7, 2013 11:18 AM EST
A contingent of two Patriot air defense missile units left a Netherlands military base on Monday morning (January 7) bound for deployment in Turkey on the Syrian border.
The transfer of the Patriots, which are designed to track and shoot down incoming missiles, was part of a pre-announced NATO deployment to protect Turkey from the spillover of Syria's civil war.
The two missile batteries will be shipped to Turkey and are expected to arrive around January 22.
At Incirlik air base in southeast Turkey on Monday, preparations were underway to receive the missiles.
Turkey formally asked NATO for the missiles in November to bolster security along its 560-mile (900-km) border with Syria, which has been torn by a 21-month insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad.
Turkey repeatedly has scrambled fighter jets along the frontier and responded in kind when Syrian shells came down inside its borders, fanning fears that the civil war could spread.
Germany, the U.S. and the Netherlands are supplying Patriot batteries.
The U.S. troops, who began arriving at Incirlik air base in Turkey, will man two U.S. Patriot batteries out of a total of six batteries that have been promised by NATO allies.
NATO foreign ministers approved Turkey's request for the Patriot deployment in early December. The alliance said the move was aimed at defending Turkey and it had no intention of intervening in the Syrian civil war, but Syria, Iran and Russia criticized the decision.
The Patriot missiles will be stationed near three south-eastern Turkish cities.
The Netherlands will deploy its batteries near Adana, Turkey's fourth-largest city, which lies around 60 miles (100 km) from the Syrian border. The joint Turkish-American Incirlik Air Base is just outside the city. Some 30 Dutch soldiers will fly to Turkey on Tuesday (January 8) as an advanced party of a total of 300 Dutch soldiers, who will take part in the NATO mission.