Czechs join NATO defense mission in Turkey

Photo: CTK

In the next couple of weeks, four Czech soldiers are set to join other troops from Germany, Holland, Slovakia and others in Turkey. The NATO-approved mission aims to help the Turks protect their border with Syria and prevent the civil war in Syria from spilling over.

German Military trucks and other vehicles for the 'Patriot' defense missiles are loaded onto the Danish ferry in the harbor of Luebeck,  January 8,  2013,  photo: CTK
In early December, the US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced to the Turkish military that America was ready to help defend its NATO ally. Soon after, the German and Dutch parliaments also approved the deployment of their Patriot PAC-3 missile defense batteries that will protect the southern Turkish-Syrian border. To service the missile defense system and help the Turkish army reinforce their other defense mechanisms, a little over 1,000 NATO troops have also been deployed.

The Czech soldiers will join their Slovak and Polish colleagues from the 3rd NATO communication battalion by the end of January. German and Dutch troops should already be on the ground in southern Turkey. According to Petr Pavel, the chief-of-staff of the Czech army, the Czech soldiers are going to Turkey in an assistance capacity.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas,  Petr Pavel,  photo: CTK
“The Turks have asked for the Patriot missile defense system after a Turkish airplane was shot down in June of last year. Our soldiers will not be directly part of the Patriot system. They will be in supporting positions of its command and operations system.”

The four soldiers from the Lipník nad Bečvou military base belong to the 102nd communication division and are trained to operate the DCM communication module, which usually serves mobile command posts. Their role in the mission is to set up and oversee the communication system between the commanders of the NATO mission and the units operating the Patriot defense system.

Binnish,  Syria,  photo: CTK
The Syrian government and media cried foul immediately after NATO agreed to send Patriot missiles and troops to Turkey, claiming that the Northern alliance is actually trying to protect insurgents in the north of the country. But Turkish officials say they are simply trying to prevent any Syrian missiles from penetrating their airspace again. The Patriot missiles, they claim, will be positioned far enough from the border that they would not be able to help anti-government troops in Syria.

So far, the allied mission in Turkey is set to take place in four three-month rotations of army specialists. NATO is likely to request the Czech Republic to participate in each of them, but as of right now the Czech soldiers are planning to return home in April.