President Donald Trump said that he will send roughly 1,500 troops to the Middle East in order to counter Iran’s influence in the region.
Trump emphasized that the new deployment will provide force protection for existing troops in the area amid heightened tensions with Tehran.
The President approved the additional forces on Thursday following a meeting with acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford at the White House.
“We want to have protection,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
Director of the Joint Staff Rear Adm. Michael Gilday later told reporters at the Pentagon that fewer than 1,000 new U.S. troops will actually be deploying to the Middle East, while roughly 600 soldiers already in the region will have their deployment extended.
The new soldiers sent are part of a Patriot anti-missile battalion being deployed to defend against missile threats.
In addition to troops and the Patriot battalion, the Pentagon will also send additional intelligence and reconnaissance aircraft, engineers, as well as a fighter aircraft squadron “to provide additional deterrence and depth to our aviation response options.”
Shanahan said that the request for more forces and equipment had come from U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and that he had informed Congress of the deployment, saying it was meant to “improve our force protection and safeguard U.S. forces given the ongoing threat posed by Iranian forces, including the IRGC [Iran’s Revolutionary Guard] and its proxies.”
The move “is a prudent defensive measure and intended to reduce the possibility of future hostilities,” the Pentagon chief said in a statement. “I remain committed to ensuring U.S. personnel have the force protection resources they need and deserve.”
Tensions with Iran have grown since earlier this month when the Trump administration deployed a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East, citing “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” from Iran that have yet to be publicly identified.