US could send more troops to Mideast: Pentagon chief
The United States said on May 23 it was considering deploying more troops to the Middle East as it looks for ways to enhance the protection of its forces in the turbulent region amid simmering tensions with Iran.
But acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan denied news reports that plans under consideration call for the deployment of as many as 10,000 more troops, a move that would further rattle frayed nerves in the region.
"It may involve sending additional troops," he said.
Earlier this month, the administration of President Donald Trump announced the deployment of an aircraft carrier task force as well as B-52 bombers, an amphibious assault ship and a missile defense battery to the Gulf.
But they have also provoked skepticism among members of Congress who worry that brinksmanship with Tehran could lead to a dangerous miscalculation.
"There is no 10,000 and there is no 5,000. That's not accurate," he said.
"We talk to CENTCOM all the time," he said.
The acting Pentagon chief said he would brief Trump on May 23 about the situation before the president heads to Japan.
The United States currently has between 60,000 and 80,000 troops deployed in the area covered by CENTCOM, which includes the 14,000 currently on duty in Afghanistan, 5,200 personnel in Iraq and less than 2,000 in Syria.
Earlier in the week, Shanahan said the US response had put the alleged threat posed by Iran "on hold."
"We have deterred attacks based on reposturing of assets -- deterred attacks against American forces," Shanahan told reporters on May 21 after delivering a classified briefing to the full US Congress.
"Our biggest focus at this point is to prevent Iranian miscalculation. We do not want the situation to escalate," he said.