Roughly 900 US troops have been deployed or are deploying to the Middle East amid heightened tensions in the region after a series of attacks on coalition bases that resulted in minor injuries for almost two dozen troops.
“These include forces that have been on prepare to deploy orders, and which are deploying from the continental United States,” Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters on Thursday. “Deployed and deploying units include a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery from Fort Bliss Texas, Patriot batteries from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Patriot and Avenger batteries from Fort Liberty, North Carolina, and associated air defense headquarters elements from Fort Bliss and Fort Cavazos, Texas.”
Ryder added that the deploying units would not be going to Israel and are “intended to support regional deterrence efforts and further bolster US force protection capabilities.”
The Pentagon previously announced the deployment of the THAAD and Patriot batteries.
As the war between Israel and Hamas continues, the US is seeking to send a strong message to adversaries to prevent the conflict spreading more widely in the region.
CNN has reported that the US has intelligence that Iranian-backed militia groups are planning to ramp up attacks against US forces in the Middle East, as Iran seeks to capitalize on the backlash in the region to US support for Israel.
Ryder said Thursday that between October 17 and 26, US and coalition forces have been attacked “at least 12 separate times in Iraq, four separate times in Syria, by a mix of one-way attack drones and rockets.”
A total of 21 US service members have received minor injuries as a result of attacks between October 17 and 18, CNN reported Wednesday. Of those, 19 – 15 at al-Asad Air Base in Iraq and four at al-Tanf Garrison in Syria – have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI), Ryder said.
All have since returned to duty, he added, and there have been “no injuries or no reported cases of TBI since the 17th and 18th of October.”
An attack on Thursday, Ryder said, targeted Erbil Airbase and was “unsuccessful” with no casualties and “some minor damage to infrastructure.”
The announcement on Thursday comes after the Pentagon put roughly 2,000 US troops on prepare to deploy orders last week, which Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said were focused on providing “air defense, security, logistics, medical, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and transportation” support.
That is in addition to US troops already in Iraq and Syria – roughly 2,500 and 900, respectively – and Navy assets that were announced to be heading to the region. The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group has been directed to the Middle East, and the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group is currently in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Asked Thursday to explain the delay in response to attacks on US forces, Ryder said the US military maintains “the inherent right of defending our troops and we will take all necessary measures to protect our forces and our interests overseas.”
“As it relates to these groups, again, we know that these are Iranian-backed militia groups that are supported by Iran, and of course, we hold Iran responsible for these groups,” he said.
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