Germany has decided to send more troops to Turkey to operate NATO’s AWACS surveillance aircraft near Syria where the Arab country is fighting terrorists with the help of its allies such as Russia.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet on Wednesday approved the deployment of additional troops to Konya air base in southern Turkey, government sources said.
The German forces are already based at Incirlik base in the Turkish city of Adana near the Syrian border.
The mandate to deploy up to 1,200 German troops in Turkey had been due to run out at the end of this year but was extended and broadened to manning the AWACS, Wednesday reports said.
German lawmakers first authorized the deployment in December 2015, including by flying Tornado reconnaissance missions and aerial refueling planes, as well as deploying a frigate to help protect a French aircraft carrier.
A statement from Merkel’s office said, “The continued and expanded participation in the fight against ISIS (Daesh) is a key element of German security policy engagement in the region.”
However, the use of the complicated AWACS system against Daesh and other militants, as claimed by the US and NATO, has already raised questions.
The system is designed to detect aircraft, ships and vehicles at long ranges and control and command the battle space in an air engagement by directing fighter and attack aircraft strikes.
Some observers believe the AWACS, or Airborne Warning and Control System, is aimed at Russia which is carrying out airstrikes in support of the Syrian government.
NATO forces could reportedly start flying the planes this month, although initially without German crews since the German parliament is not expected to approve the expanded German role until November.
NATO has been operating some AWACS from Konya air base since early 2016 as part of a separate mission approved after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet in the border area in November 2015.