Pentagon proposes bolstering US forces in Mideast amid Iran tensions
Friday 24/May/2019 - 12:36 PM
The Times of Israel
The Pentagon on Thursday outlined proposals to the White House that would send military reinforcements to the Middle East to beef up defenses against Iran amid heightened tensions in the region. President Donald Trump، speaking to reporters before the meeting، said he was not convinced more troops are needed but would do whatever is necessary.
“We’ll see what happens with Iran،” Trump said. “I don’t think we’re going to need them، I really don’t، but we’re going to have a meeting on it in about an hour. I would certainly send troops if we need them.”
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters the Defense Department has not yet determined how many troops might be sent to reinforce the existing US military presence in the region.
He disputed reports by The Associated Press and others that the Pentagon was proposing to send up to 10،000 more troops to the Middle East. He said reports citing specific figures were “not correct،” but he would not say whether the numbers under consideration were higher or lower.
“What we’re focused on right now is، do we have the right force protection in the Middle East،” Shanahan said، referring to defensive forces. “It may involve sending additional troops.”
He said he was in regular contact with Marine Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie، the Central Command chief، about how to shape the US force presence in the Mideast with potential Iranian threats in mind.
Officials said the proposed troop reinforcements are not a response to any new threat from Iran but are aimed at strengthening security for the US forces already in the region. They said the troops would be defensive forces، and the discussions include additional Patriot missile batteries، more ships and increased efforts to monitor Iran.
The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plans have not been formally announced.
Thursday’s meeting comes as tensions with Iran continue to simmer، and it wasn’t clear if a decision would be made during the session. Any move to deploy more forces to the Middle East would signal a shift for Trump، who has repeatedly emphasized the need to reduce America’s troop presence in the region.