About 900 U.S. troops have deployed or will soon go to the Middle East to “further bolster U.S. force protection capabilities” in the region, the Pentagon’s top spokesman said Thursday.
“These include forces that have been on prepare to deploy orders, and which are deploying from the continental United States,” press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said.
The units are meant to accompany and operate a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery and Patriot battalions that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin earlier this week ordered to be spread across the region.
The THAAD battery will come from Fort Bliss, Texas. Patriot batteries will come from Fort Sill, Okla., additional Patriot and Avenger batteries will ship from Fort Liberty, N.C. Associated air defense headquarters elements will be sent from Fort Bliss and Fort Cavazos, Texas, Ryder noted.
He added that the forces would not be going to Israel and are “intended to support regional deterrence efforts and further bolster U.S. force protection capabilities.”
Tensions in the Middle East continue to rise over the Israel-Hamas war. U.S. and coalition forces have been attacked at least 12 times in Iraq and four times in Syria since Oct. 17. The assaults have consisted of a mix of one-way attack drones and rockets.
Twenty-one American troops have suffered minor injuries from these attacks, many of them traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).
The majority of the casualties stemmed from attacks on Oct. 17-18, when 17 U.S. personnel at al-Tanf Garrison in Syria sustained minor injuries — 15 of whom were diagnosed with TBIs — and four individuals reported TBIs at al-Asad base in Iraq.
The most recent attack on American forces came earlier Thursday in Iraq, though it failed, Ryder said.
The United States has not provided evidence as to who has been behind such attacks but has claimed that Iran is to blame.
“I’m not going to have more specific information to provide to you from here in terms of specific groups that have claimed responsibility [for attacking Americans], other than to say we know that these groups are affiliated with Iran,” Ryder said.
Since Hamas first attacked Israel on Oct. 7, the United States has sought to bolster its forces in the region amid fears the conflict could grow.
The Pentagon earlier this month sent warships and fighter aircraft to the area, including two aircraft carriers and thousands of troops.