The Trump administration could deploy more U.S. troops to the Middle East to counter Iran, a senior Pentagon official said Thursday, following a report that the administration is considering sending another 14,000 troops to the region.
At the beginning of a Senate Armed Service Committee hearing, undersecretary of Defense for policy John Rood called a Wall Street Journal report erroneous, adding that we havent made a decision to deploy an additional 14,000 troops.
But pressed later in the hearing by Sens. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnHillicon Valley: House passes anti-robocall bill | Senators inch forward on privacy legislation | Trump escalates fight over tech tax | Illinois families sue TikTok | Senators get classified briefing on ransomwareSenators inch forward on federal privacy billDirector of National Intelligence Maguire should stand for the whistleblowerMORE (R-Tenn.) and Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleySenate confirms Trump pick labeled ‘not qualified’ by American Bar AssociationHouse, Senate Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion lawSenate approves stopgap bill to prevent shutdownMORE (R-Mo.) on whether the deployment is under consideration, as the Journal reported, Rood allowed for the possibility of deploying more forces.
We are evaluating the threat situation and the secretary if he chooses to can make decisions to deploy additional forces based on what hes observing there, Rood said. Based on what were seeing and our concerns about the threat picture, it is possible that we would need to adjust our force posture. And I think that would be a be prudent step depending on what we observe because our objective is to deter Iranian aggression, and deterrence is not static. Its a very dynamic activity.
On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed U.S. officials, reported the administration is considering deploying as many as 14,000 additional troops, as well as more ships and hardware, to the Middle East to counter Iran. The Journal said President TrumpDonald John TrumpStates slashed 4,400 environmental agency jobs in past decade: studyBiden hammers Trump over video of world leaders mocking himIran building hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq: reportMORE could make a decision on the deployment as soon as this month.
After the article was published, Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah tweeted that the United States is not sending 14,000 troops to the Middle East. In a second tweet, Farah said the reporting is wrong and that the United States is not considering sending 14,000 troops the Middle East.
A deployment of 14,000 would double the number of U.S. troops sent to the region since May in the face of what officials have described as heightening threats from Iran.
The United States has blamed Iran for attacks over the summer on oil tankers in the Gulf, as well as an attack on two Saudi Arabian oil facilities. Iran has denied they carried out the attacks.
At the top of Wednesdays hearing, committee Chairman Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeRepublicans raise concerns over Trump pardoning service membersCongress braces for chaotic DecemberThe job no GOP senator wants: ‘I’d rather have a root canal’MORE (R-Okla.) said Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperThe Hill’s Morning Report – Dem impeachment report highlights phone recordsOvernight Defense: Trump clashes with Macron at NATO summit | House impeachment report says Trump abused power | Top Dem scolds military leaders on Trump intervention in war crimes casesHouse leaders: Trump administration asking South Korea to pay more for US troops ‘a needless wedge’MORE denied the report to him and asked Rood for further clarification.
That is an erroneous item, Rood said of the Journal report. We are observing Irans behavior with concern. As you know, in recent months, theyve conducted some attacks on shipping, on the Saudi oil facilities and on an American [drone]. We continue to see threat reporting that concerns us, as well.
So the secretary and others are continuing to look at that threat picture and have the ability to dynamically adjust our force posture, he added. But we havent made a decision to deploy an additional 14,000 troops.
Blackburn later stressed the article said the deployment was under consideration, not that decision had been made, and pressed Rood on that point.
With respect to the Journal article, as mentioned the Iranians, were watching this situation where the Iranians both have conducted attacks in recent months, and were concerned about the threat stream that were seeing, Rood told Blackburn, adding officials are scheduled to brief the committee in closed session next week on Iranian threats.
So you are considering it? Blackburn replied.
Yes, Rood responded. What I would say to you is there is a dynamism both to the threat situation and there needs to be a dynamism to the response.
Is 14,000 the correct number or is there a lesser number? Blackburn pressed.
The secretary of Defense has not made any decisions to deploy additional troops, Rood said. The secretary of Defense is consistently and continues to evaluate with the advice of others what the appropriate number of forces to be deployed to the Middle East is.
Pressed by Hawley about the contradiction between Roods comments Thursday and Farahs tweets Wednesday, Rood said he wouldnt agree with your characterization that I have directly contradicted the spokesperson.
There isnt some pending document with the secretary of Defense that states, Deploy 14,000 troops, do you approve, yes or no, Rood said. Im not trying to be argumentative, sir, Im just trying to point out theres a dynamic security situation in the Middle East and that its custom that we do, and we didnt do it just because of recent events, where we regularly evaluate the appropriate number of forces.
Hawley encouraged Esper to publicly comment on the issue to clear up the contradictions.
I think at this point it would be helpful to hear from the secretary on this issue, and Id like to hear from him today on this issue, Hawley said. I think some clarifications in order, and Id like to have it, Id like to have it in public, because the Pentagon has now made multiple contradictory public statements.