Published: Fri, May 24, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

United States could send more troops to Middle East: Pentagon chief

United States could send more troops to Middle East: Pentagon chief

The Trump administration this month ordered the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group, bombers and additional Patriot missiles to the Middle East, citing intelligence about possible Iranian preparations to attack USA forces or interests. Shanahan told reporters on a possible further buildup of the USA military presence.

"We're going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective", Trump added.

"We want to have protection in the Middle East". "Some very talented people are going to the Middle East right now and we'll see what happens".

"But they can not have nuclear weapons", he continued. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan later said planners had not settled on a figure.

Shanahan acknowledged that such a request " may involve sending additional troops".

Officials said members of Congress were notified following a White House meeting Thursday to discuss Pentagon proposals to bolster the USA force presence in the Middle East.

The US has tens of thousands of troops in the Middle East, including at a major Navy base in Bahrain and an Air Force base and operations centre in Qatar.

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Earlier this month, the USA sent thousands more into the region around Iran, including an aircraft carrier strike group, four bomber aircraft and fighter jets in response to the unspecified threat.

The new deployment includes Patriot missile batteries, reconnaissance aircraft and accompanying necessary forces to provide further deterrence against what the Pentagon believes is a rising Iranian threat against USA troops in the region, according to the official and another United States official directly familiar with the deployment proposal.

Eager to avoid escalation with Iran amid already heightened tensions, Pentagon officials stressed the defensive nature of the deployment in a news briefing and noted that none of the troops would be heading to hot spots like Iraq or Syria.

Washington continues to amass forces in the Middle East as the Pentagon accuses Iran of an "ongoing threat" to U.S. allies and interests.

The CENTCOM request has been in the works for some time, the USA official said.

The new CENTCOM request for additional defensive capabilities and forces comes as Shanahan said on Tuesday that the threat of Iranian attacks against US forces had been put "on hold".

For their part, the Iranians also insist they are not looking for a war with the United States, but will also defend themselves if necessary, raising concerns about the potential risk that either side could misinterpret additional military moves into or within the region as potential threats.

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