Pentagon Confirms Extra Troops Heading to Middle East

January 3, 2020 Updated: January 3, 2020

The United States is sending additional troops to the Middle East, the Department of Defense confirmed on Jan. 3.

“As previously announced, the Immediate Response Force (IRF) brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division was alerted to prepare for deployment, and are now being deployed,” a Department of Defense spokesman said in an emailed statement to The Epoch Times.

“One battalion of the IRF was deployed to the area of responsibility. At the same time, the remainder of the brigade was placed on 96-hour notice. This deployment was an anticipated and expected outcome when they were placed on notice,” he added.

“The brigade will deploy to Kuwait as an appropriate and precautionary action in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities, and will assist in reconstituting the reserve.”

The United States has deployed 14,000 troops to the Middle East since May 2019, not including the approximately 700 troops it sent from the IRF earlier this week after Iran-backed militias breached the outer walls of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.

baghdad embassy
Pro-Iranian militiamen and their supporters set a fire during a demonstration in front of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 1, 2020. (Khalid Mohammed/AP Photo)
Epoch Times Photo
A U.S. Army paratrooper of an immediate reaction force from the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, reaches for his weapon shortly before boarding a C-17 transport aircraft leaving Fort Bragg, North Carolina on Jan. 1, 2020. (Jonathan Drake/Reuters)
Iraq Airport Attack
A photo released by the Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office shows a burning vehicle at the Baghdad International Airport following an airstrike, in Baghdad, Iraq, early on Jan. 2, 2020. (HO, Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office, via AP)

The number of troops in the new deployment was estimated at 2,800 since a brigade usually consists of about 3,500 troops, reported Reuters. The department didn’t state an exact number.

The fresh deployment comes after the U.S. took out Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the country’s Quds Force, overnight with a strike near Baghdad International Airport.

U.S. military leaders said they learned that Soleimani was planning an attack on U.S. interests, compelling President Donald Trump to authorize the strike.

The attack Soleimani was planning in the Middle East region was “imminent” and would have killed Americans and Iraqis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

“I can’t talk too much about the nature of the threats, but the American people should know that President Trump’s decision to remove Qassem Soleimani from the battlefield saved American lives,” Pompeo said on CNN’s “New Day.”

President Donald Trump said on Twitter that Soleimani “killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more…but got caught!”

Trump urged Iran’s leaders to negotiate, not go to war, while Iranian leaders vowed to retaliate, calling Soleimani a “martyr.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said during an appearance on state TV later Friday that the killing of Soleimani “was clearly a terrorist action.”

“Iran will launch various legal measures at the international level to hold America to account for Soleimani’s assassination,” he added.

Allen Zhong contributed to this report.

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