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Turks against extra defense

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By The Washington Post

Published: Monday, Jan. 7, 2013, 6:38 p.m.

ANTAKYA, Turkey — As American troops arrive in Turkey and prepare to man Patriot anti-missile batteries along the Syrian border, some of the people who will be under their protection say the extra line of defense is not needed

Some say the presence of foreign forces could pull their country into the war next door.

“We don't need this thing between us and our neighbors,” said Ali Yilmaz, 49, who works in a cell phone shop in this town that's heavily Alawite, the same religious sect as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “It's wrong. It's only going to cause problems.”

Other Turks expect the missile-blasting defense system — organized and overseen by NATO because of a request from the Turkish government last year — to protect them from missiles that occasionally stray across the border or from a direct attack. But they ask why the same level of protection isn't being extended to those living inside Syria.

“A lot of children and women are getting killed,” said Mehmet Kamil Dervisoglu, 37, who works at a hotel in Reyhanli, a heavily Sunni town that's closer to the border and has become a “Little Syria” in recent months. “If we got involved, it would be an army against an army. But an army against women and children?”

About 400 troops are being airlifted from Oklahoma to Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey. The first wave of troops and supplies arrived on Friday, with more coming in days, according to the U.S. European Command.

Eventually, the troops will man two Patriot batteries in Gaziantep, a Turkish town about 30 miles from the border. Germany and the Netherlands will supply two batteries each, to be stationed in other towns along the border.

The batteries are designed to spot and intercept missiles. Once in place later this month, all six will operate under NATO command. The mission is “defensive only” and aims to deter threats to Turkey, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said.

 

 
 


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