Published: Fri, May 24, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

U.S. to send 1,500 troops to Middle East

U.S. to send 1,500 troops to Middle East

Earlier this week, officials said the Pentagon had drawn up plans that could have sent up to 10,000 troops to the Middle East.

"What we're looking at, are there things that we can do to enhance force protection in the Middle East?"

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".

Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn shortly before departing for a trip to Japan on Friday, Trump said the objective of this deployment is "mostly protective", and is meant to increase the security of forces already in the region.

Shanahan said he was in regular contact with Marine General Frank McKenzie, who leads US Central Command, which oversees US military operations in the Middle East.

"When I first got here, they were in 14 different locations fighting", he said. He seemed to downplay the prospect of conflict when he spoke at the White House.

U.S. officials said the meeting persuaded Trump to approve a relatively modest increase in the number of USA forces stationed in the region.

The news came after acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan denied earlier reports that the Trump administration was planning to send as many as 10,000 troops to the region.

There are now 60,000 to 80,000 USA troops serving in the Middle East including 14,000 in Afghanistan, 5,000 in Iraq, 2,000 in Syria, 10,000 in Kuwait, 10,000 in Qatar and thousands more at sea and elsewhere in the region.

It's possible that in the future additional U.S. Navy ships could be sent to the region beyond the USS Abraham Lincoln Strike Group and the USS Kearsarge Amphibious Group that are now in the North Arabian Sea. "We have a mission there in the Middle East: freedom of navigation, counterterrorism in Syria and Iraq, defeating al Qaeda in Yemen, and the security of Israel and Jordan".

Tension had been rising with Iran for more than a year.

The Pentagon said only about 900 of the 1,500 troops will be newly deploying and that 600 are already in the region and will be extended.

Rhetoric between Tehran and Washington has escalated in recent weeks as the United States tightened sanctions with what it said was the goal of pushing Iran to make concessions beyond the terms of its 2015 nuclear deal.

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