The United States is deploying about 900 troops to the Middle East as attacks on U.S. forces are on the rise.
Their presence is meant to “further bolster U.S. force protection capabilities” in the region, according to Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder.
The move comes after American troops were affected by a series of attacks on coalition bases, though they will not be headed to Israel as Ryder indicated they are “intended to support regional deterrence efforts.”
“The Department (of Defense) remains squarely focused on supporting Israel’s defense needs in the wake of Hamas terrorist attacks, deterring a broader regional conflict and ensuring force protection for our troops serving in the region,” he said.
“These include forces that have been on prepare to deploy orders, and which are deploying from the continental United States,” 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.”
The ramped-up efforts come in the wake of a rise in attacks on American troops in Iraq and Syria.
“What we’re seeing here is in Iraq and Syria, where our forces are there as part of the defeat-ISIS mission, these groups – many of which are long-standing in that region – are conducting these attacks against US forces,” Ryder said.
“I would tell you that between Oct. 17 and 26, US and coalition forces have been attacked at least 12 separate times in Iraq (and) four separate times in Syria by a mix of one-way attack drones and rockets,” he added. “Again, we will continue to revise those numbers as new information comes in.”
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, according to CNN.
He noted that all have since returned to duty, and there were “no injuries or no reported cases of TBI since the 17th and 18th of October.”
About 2,000 US troops were placed on prepare-to-deploy orders last week, CNN noted. These troops were expected to provide “air defense, security, logistics, medical, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and transportation” support, according to Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh.
With the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group currently in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group directed to the region, they join about 2,500 troops already in Iraq and 900 in Syria,
The US military upholds “the inherent right of defending our troops and we will take all necessary measures to protect our forces and our interests overseas,” Ryder said Thursday when asked about the seeming delay in confronting those responsible for US attacks.
“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.