U.S. Central Command has requested another 5,000 to 10,000 troops in an effort to deter Iran, said a U.S. official.
According to two other officials, a meeting will be held at the White House on Thursday to look into the request, although it is still unclear which part of the CENTCOM request could be approved at the meeting.
What is known is that the number of additional forces being sent to the Middle East will depend on which defensive capabilities and weapons systems are approved, the first official noted.
CENTCOM could likewise request additional Patriot anti-missile batteries and more U.S. Navy ships to the Middle East apart from those already deployed there. The timeline for the deployment of additional ships is unclear for now.
About 60,000 to 80,000 U.S. forces are currently deployed in the region – 14,000 in Afghanistan, 5,000 in Iraq, 2,000 in Syria, 10,000 in Kuwait and 10,000 in Qatar, as well as thousands more at sea and at other locations in the Middle East, ABC News writes.
On Tuesday, Congress was briefed on the President’s Iran strategy as well as on recent intelligence indicating an increasing threat from the Middle Eastern country, which has led to the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf.
Following the briefing by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford, Democrats voiced concerns about the Trump administration’s strategy in the region and the likelihood of a war with Iran.
The officials stressed that the request was not a result of any perceived threats from the Islamic Republic, but is rather an attempt to strengthen security in the region by deploying additional defensive troops.
The Associated Press writes that if President Donald Trump approves the request that would represent a shift in his stance towards sending troops to the Middle East. Namely, Trump has insisted that the U.S. should reduce its presence in the region, not increase it.
Defense officials are adamant the U.S. is not seeking a conflict with Iran but rather a way to de-escalate tensions.
“Our biggest focus at this point is to prevent Iranian miscalculation,” said Shanahan.
Democrats have accused President Trump of encouraging tensions with Iran by withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal last year and deeming Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization.