The deployment is relatively small, compared with the approximately 70,000 American troops now stationed across the region. In addition, some 600 of the 1,500 troops are already in the Middle East manning Patriot missiles, and will see their deployments extended.
Eager to avoid escalation with Iran amid already heightened tensions, Pentagon officials stressed the defensive nature of the deployment in a news briefing and noted that none of the troops would be heading to hot spots like Iraq or Syria.
“These are defensive forces,” said Katie Wheelbarger, one of the Pentagon’s most senior policy officials.
The Trump administration this month ordered the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group, bombers and additional Patriot missiles to the Middle East, citing intelligence about possible Iranian preparations to attack US forces or interests.
Rear Admiral Michael Gilday, the director of the Joint Staff, on Friday described US intelligence portraying a new Iranian “campaign” that used old tactics, and stretched from Iraq to Yemen to the waters in the Strait of Hormuz, a vital maritime choke-point for the global oil trade.