The Pentagon says it will send Patriot air defense missiles and 400 troops to Turkey as part of a NATO force meant to protect Turkish territory from potential Syrian missile attack. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta signed a deployment order today en route to Turkey from Afghanistan, a rep says. The order calls for 400 US soldiers to operate two batteries of Patriots at undisclosed locations in Turkey. Turkey is a founding member of NATO and requested that the alliance provide Patriots.
They will be sent by NATO members Germany and the Netherlands as well as the US for an undetermined period. During a brief stop at Incirlik Air Base, some 60 miles from the Syrian border, Panetta told US troops that Turkey might need the Patriots, which are capable of shooting down shorter-range ballistic missiles as well as aircraft. He said he approved the deployment "so that we can help Turkey have the kind of missile defense it may very well need to deal with the threats coming out of Syria," he said. Panetta did not mention how soon the two Patriot batteries will head to Turkey or how long they might stay. (Read more Leon Panetta stories.)