President Trump announced Friday that the U.S. will send about 1,500 more troops to the Middle East to play a “mostly protective” role, amid escalating tensions with Iran.
“We want to have protection,” Trump said at the White House as he left for Japan. “Some very talented people are going to the Middle East right now and we’ll see what happens.”
About 1,000 troops will be sent to the region and close to 600 will have their deployments in the Middle East extended, according to the director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Rear Admiral Michael Gilday.
“The Iranians have said publicly they were going to do things,” Gilday said. “We learned through intelligence reporting they have acted upon those threats and they have actually attacked.”
The Pentagon will also send a Patriot anti-missile battalion, a fighter-aircraft squadron, engineers, and more intelligence and reconnaissance aircraft.
Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said U.S. Central Command had requested the additional troops and that they are intended 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.”
“In my capacity, the most difficult decision is authorizing a mission that I know puts the men and women of our Armed forces in harm’s way,” Shanahan said during his address at the U.S. Naval Academy’s commencement ceremony. “I will continue to give those orders, but only when absolutely necessary.”
The Trump administration deployed four bombers as well as the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier-strike group to the Persian Gulf earlier this month amid fears that Iran was transporting short-range ballistic missiles in the region. The U.S. currently has about 5,200 troops in Iraq and 2,000 in Syria.
Tensions between Iran and the U.S. have intensified since April, when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced an end to the exemptions from U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil and gas that eight countries had been granted.
“If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again,” Trump wrote on Twitter.