Pentagon to Increase Number of Troops in Middle East Amid Rising Threats from Iran

The Pentagon will further beef up its military assets in the Persian Gulf to counter what U.S. officials have called “credible” threats from Iran, President Donald Trump said Friday.

Trump said he planned to send about 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East. A U.S. official said earlier Friday that up to 3,000 troops had been under consideration.

Speaking to reporters as he departed the White House for a weekend trip to Japan, the president described the troops as performing mostly defensive duties. A U.S. official said most of the troops will be involved in intelligence gathering and manning missile batteries.

“We’re going to be sending a relatively small number of troops – mostly protective,” Trump said.

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan said Friday that he approved the deployment of additional resources to the Middle East “to improve our force protection and safeguard U.S. forces given the ongoing threat posed by Iranian forces,” including Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its proxies.

“The deployment will include approximately 1,500 U.S. military personnel and consist of a Patriot battalion to defend against missile threats,” as well as additional intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance aircraft, and a fighter aircraft squadron.

“The additional deployment to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility is a prudent defensive measure and intended to reduce the possibility of future hostilities,” Shanahan said. “I remain committed to ensuring U.S. personnel have the force protection resources they need and deserve.”

The move comes as the administration is seeking to increase pressure on Iran.

The Pentagon had considered sending as many as 5,000 troops to the Middle East, according to the U.S. official. By Thursday, that number had dropped to 3,000, and the decision to send roughly 1,500 was made Friday, the source said. Most of the forces have defensive specialties, including anti-aircraft and missile defenses.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Tom Vanden Brook and Deirdre Shesgreen