Defense Secretary: US Military Has Enough Capability in Mideast for Now
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Friday he believed the US military had sufficient capability in the Middle East for now to deter conflict, dismissing a media report that a major troop increase was under consideration amid tension with Iran.
Esper, speaking to a small group of reporters, did not rule out rotations of forces or even minor increases in the future.
"But nothing in terms of the numbers – 14,000 - it's just a completely false report," Esper said as he flew to California for a defense forum at the Reagan Library.
"Every commander wants more and more capabilities, wherever they are. But right now we believe we have sufficient capability in the theater to deter what we've needed to deter,” Reuters quoted him as saying.
He added that he regularly reviews requests but stressed that "right now, there is no 14,000 person request to deploy forces."
Esper's remarks on the issue were the most extensive since the Pentagon on Wednesday strongly denied a Wall Street Journal report that the United States was considering sending as many as 14,000 additional troops to the region.
The United States has dispatched about 14,000 additional troops to the Middle East since May, backed by bombers and air defense personnel, to deter what Washington calls provocative Iranian behavior.