The US will deploy thousands of additional troops to the Middle East as tensions with Iran mount following the airstrike that killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, a US defense official tells CNN.
The additional troops will come from the Immediate Response Force of the 82nd Airborne Division. CNN has previously reported that these forces had been placed on prepare-to deploy orders and would be sent to the region if the situation merited it.
Following the disturbance at the US Embassy in Baghdad earlier this week, the US deployed 750 troops from the same unit and said that additional deployments were possible.
The new deployment will encompass the rest of the brigade, typically about 3,000 soldiers.
In a dramatic escalation amid tensions between the two countries, the Pentagon confirmed Thursday that the US killed Soleimani, the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, in a drone strike on Baghdad International airport ordered by President Donald Trump.
Intelligence showed Soleimani was in Baghdad following Tuesday’s embassy attack to plan future hits on US targets with Iranian proxy forces, a senior administration official told CNN. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNN Friday that the strike was carried out to disrupt an “imminent” attack in the region.
The deployment comes amid threats from the Iranian government of a “harsh revenge” for the killing of Soleimani.
President Donald Trump says he authorized a precision strike against the commander of Iran’s security and intelligence services because he was plotting “imminent and sinister attacks” on Americans.
“We caught him in the act and terminated him,” Trump said Friday, a day after the strike that killed Qasem Soleimani.
Trump told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago estate that Soleimani should have been taken out by his predecessors.
And he cast his decision as one of deterrence rather than aggression.
“We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,” Trump said.