Amid reports that the US could send anywhere from 5,000 to 120,000 additional troops to the Middle East to confront Iran, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan offered the first public confirmation May 23, 2019, that additional manpower might be needed.
Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday that the Department of Defense was looking at ways to “enhance force protection,” saying that this “may involve sending additional troops,” CNN reported.
Exactly how many troops could be headed that way remains unclear.
The New York Times reported a little over a week ago that the Trump administration was considering sending as many as 120,000 US troops to the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran. Trump called the report “fake news” the following day but said that if Iran wanted to fight, he would send “a hell of a lot more troops than that.”
Shanahan dismissed these reports May 23, 2019, while declining to say how many more troops might be required. “I woke up this morning and read that we were sending 10,000 troops to the Middle East and read more recently there was 5,000,” he said, according to Voice of America, adding: “There is no 10,000, and there is no 5,000. That’s not accurate.”
The US has already sent the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, a task force of B-52H Stratofortress heavy, long-range bombers, an amphibious assault vessel, and an air-and-missile defense battery to the US Central Command area of responsibility.
These assets were deployed in response to what CENTCOM called “clear indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack US forces in the region.” The exact nature of the threat is unclear, as the Pentagon has yet to publicly explain the threat.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.