First of 3,000 US soldiers board flights from Fort Bragg as they are deployed to the Middle East after Soleimani’s death
The United States is sending nearly 3,000 more Army troops to the Middle East as reinforcements in the volatile aftermath of the killing of an Iranian general in a strike ordered by President Donald Trump.
Defense officials – speaking Friday on the condition of anonymity – announced the decision that was not yet announced by the Pentagon, and added that the troops are from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
They are in addition to about 700 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne who deployed to Kuwait earlier this week after the storming of the US Embassy compound in Baghdad by Iran-backed militiamen and their supporters.
The additional troop deployments reflect concerns about potential Iranian retaliatory action. But they also run counter to Trump’s repeated push to extract the United States from Mideast conflicts.
Trump has repeatedly called for withdrawing from Syria and Afghanistan, but over the past year he has greatly increased U.S. troop totals in the Middle East.
More broadly, some congressional Democrats and national security analysts questioned whether the Trump administration is prepared for Iranian retaliation and the prospect of political backlash in Iraq, where American troops are working with Iraqi forces in a sometimes tense partnership against the Islamic State extremist group.
The Pentagon said it wants to sustain that work, but some Iraqi leaders said it might be time for U.S. troops to leave.
On Wednesday at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, paratroopers from the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division boarded C-17 Globemaster aircraft transports bound for Kuwait. They have since arrived.
The official account for the 82nd Airborne, America’s Division tweeted on Wednesday: ‘Early this morning more than 650 All American Paratroopers and equipment began their deployment to the @CENTCOM (U.S. Central Command) area of operations.
‘This is why we exist. Your @Strike_Hold (1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division) Paratroopers have trained and prepared for events like these. @OIRSpox (spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve), they are on the way.’
Iran-backed militiamen withdrew from the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Wednesday after two days of clashes with American security forces, but U.S.-Iran tensions remain high and could spill over into further violence.
‘At the direction of the Commander in Chief, I have authorized the deployment of an infantry battalion from the Immediate Response Force (IRF) of the 82nd Airborne Division to the U.S. Central Command area of operations in response to recent events in Iraq,’ Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper said in a statement.
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