The Pentagon is deploying 300 additional forces to the Middle East amid continued attacks by Iran-backed forces on bases in Iraq and Syria hosting American military personnel, press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said Tuesday.
On Thursday, the Pentagon said it was sending 900 more U.S. troops to the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) region to operate additional air defense systems and bolster deterrence against the Iranian proxy groups that keep striking at American positions. An addition of 300 brings the total number of additional forces sent to CENTCOM to 1,200 and come from a group of 2,000 that have been waiting on “prepare to deploy” orders, according to Military Times.
“These additional troops will provide capabilities and explosive ordnance disposal, communications and other support enablers for forces already in the region,” Ryder said Thursday. (RELATED: US Sent Dozens Of Additional Special Operations Troops To Israel, Official Says)
He added that the troops are not going to Israel and “are intended to support regional deterrence efforts and further bolster U.S. force protection capabilities.”
The Pentagon sent nearly a dozen air defense systems to the CENTCOM region — Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — to protect American service members from credible threats of attacks by Iran-backed militias. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also activated multiple Patriot batteries and one Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery in “locations throughout the region to increase force protection for U.S. forces,” according to a Pentagon press release.
Since Oct. 17, American troops stationed in Iraq and Syria for the purpose of defeating the Islamic State have come under fire at least 27 times, Ryder said Tuesday — 16 times in Iraq and 11 in Syria.
The U.S. on Friday bombed two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iranian proxy militias and Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), but so far the attempts on U.S. service members’ lives have not receded.
Ryder refused to connect the significant uptick in attacks to the Israel-Gaza conflict. Iran-backed Islamist groups in Iraq had threatened to target American forces if the U.S. intervened to help Israel in its war against Hamas.
“It’s important to differentiate between what Iranian proxies and Iran might be saying and the perspective that we bring to this, which is our forces are in Iraq and Syria for one purpose, which is the enduring defeat of ISIS. That’s why they’re there,” Ryder said.
The Secretary of Defense has directed the deployment of additional forces to the @CENTCOM AOR to bolster our ability to ensure the free flow of international commerce and deter Iranian destabilizing activities in the region. Read more here: https://t.co/8CUCuHqSMf
— Department of Defense 🇺🇸 (@DeptofDefense) July 20, 2023
The U.S. has about 2,500 troops in Iraq and an additional 900 in Syria tasked with assisting local partner militias in the ongoing campaign to defeat the Islamic State terrorist group, according to Reuters.
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