Turkey will be responsible for NATO’s rapid response unit within the next few years, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced yesterday, according to Hurriyet Daily News.
The announcement was made at press conference Ankara, during Stoltenburg’s official visit to the country to discuss regional security issues with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“I welcome the fact that … Turkey in a couple years will be responsible for VJTF, the so-called Very High Readiness Joint Task Force,” Stoltenberg said.
NATO created the VJTF in 2014 as a “spearhead force” within the NATO Response Forces against risks and threats that might arise in Russia, the Middle East and North Africa. The VJTF is comprised of a multinational 5,000-troop brigade with up to five battalions, supported by air, maritime and special forces units.
“Once fully operational, the VJTP will be supplemented by two additional brigades as a rapid-reinforcement capability in case of a major crisis,” the secretary-general added.
“If activated, the force will be available to move immediately, following the first warnings and indicators of potential threats before a crisis begins to act as a potential deterrent to further escalation,” he concluded.
The secretary-general’s visit to Turkey was prompted by US-led airstrikes last weekend targeting Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. The strikes were welcomed by Turkey in the aftermath of a chemical attack on the town of Douma, believed to have been perpetrated by the Assad government.
“We welcome this operation which has eased humanity’s conscience in the face of the attack in Douma, largely suspected to have been carried out by the regime. Attacks with weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons, that indiscriminately targets civilians constitute crimes against humanity,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
However, tensions between Turkey and the US, allies in NATO, remain over the Trump administration’s continued support of Kurdish militias on the Syria border. Washington has backed the Syrian Kurdish YPG group in the fight against Daesh. Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist group and in January launched a military operation in northern Syria’s Afrin region to drive out militants.
Last week, the presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin criticised the US for its mixed messages.
“The president of the United States says ‘We’re going to get out of Syria very soon’ and then others say, ‘No, we are staying’,” Kalin said, referring to recent comments from US officials. “Obviously it does create a lot of confusion on the ground, as well as for us. We would like to see some clarity, for them to decide what is the next step, what is the ultimate goal there.”