- The US is deploying 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East to defend US forces and allies from Iran, officials said.
- The deployment will include a Patriot missile battalion, reconnaissance aircraft and related teams, an engineering element to harden existing defences, and a fighter-jet squadron to provide additional deterrence.
- A defence official told reporters that in recent weeks, Iranian leaders have repeatedly made threats backed up by changes in their force posture.
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PENTAGON – The US is deploying 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East to defend US interests in the region from Iran, defence officials said Friday, saying the additional force protection is necessary as Iran continues to show signs of aggression.
“The acting secretary of defence has approved a request from the CENTCOM combatant commander for additional forces and capabilities in the region,” acting Assistant Secretary of Defence for International Security Affairs Katie Wheelbarger told reporters at the Pentagon in the first on-the-record briefing on this issue since tensions with Iran spiked three weeks ago.
The additional US troops are deploying to operate various manned and unmanned strike platforms, as well as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and missile defence platforms, in the Middle East, an area of responsibility overseen by US Central Command.
The deployment will include a Patriot missile battalion, reconnaissance aircraft and related personnel, an engineer element to harden existing defences, and a fighter-jet squadron to provide additional deterrence capabilities. The Patriot missile battalion, a force of roughly 600 US military personnel, is already in the region. They were expected to leave, but their deployment has been extended.
The number of additional troops that will be moving into the Middle East in the coming weeks is actually closer to 900.
The request for additional force protection came from Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, CENTCOM’s commander, in response to heightened levels of Iranian aggression, officials said. Acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan, who discussed this matter with the president on Thursday, notified Congress of the impending deployment Friday morning.
The decision follows the rapid deployment of a heavily armed US Navy carrier strike group led by the USS Abraham Lincoln, a task force consisting of four US Air Force B-52H heavy long-range bombers, an amphibious assault vessel, and a Patriot missile battery to the region.
These deployments were in response to what CENTCOM said were “clear indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack US forces in the region.”
Vice Adm. Michael Gilday, the director of the Joint Staff, told reporters that in recent weeks, Iranian leaders have repeatedly made threats backed up by changes in their force posture. Iranian-backed forces have attacked foreign tankers, hit a pipeline in Saudi Arabia, and fired a rocket into the Green Zone in Iraq, he said. Gilday added that Iran has also mobilized boats known as dhows that are modified to be able to launch cruise missiles, and officials said there continue to be credible threats to US forces.
The latest move, Wheelbarger said, is “in response to credible intelligence that Iran continues to plan for attacks by itself and its proxies against the United States, its forces, and its allies and partners in the region.”
The Pentagon declined to provide evidence for its claims, saying it was unable to share the intelligence at this time.
“We have had multiple credible reports that Iranian proxy groups intend to attack US personnel in the Middle East,” Gilday said. “While we won’t be able to declassify all the available intelligence, we believe that Iran’s actions and threats are troubling, escalatory, and dangerous to our US forces and those of our regional partners.”
Defence officials speaking to reporters on Friday said the US is not seeking war with Iran, and the US is moving forward with deterrence as the primary objective.
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