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Pentagon Mulls Sending More Troops to Gulf, Officials Say


FILE - The Pentagon is seen in Washington.

VOA White House bureau chief Steve Herman and national security correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.

Top Pentagon officials will provide the president with a wide range of options in response to rising tensions in the Middle East, including possibly sending thousands more U.S. troops to the Middle East, U.S. officials said.

The top U.S. military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, and Acting Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan, are among the briefers at the White House on Thursday afternoon.

The request for additional troops has come from U.S. Central Command, said another official, who spoke to VOA on condition of anonymity because plans have not been formalized.

It is not clear if the White House will approve sending all or just some of the requested defensive forces, as well as additional Patriot missile batteries and more ships.

The Pentagon declined to comment on future plans. "As a matter of long-standing policy, we are not going to discuss or speculate on potential future plans and requests for forces," Commander Rebecca Rebarich, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said Wednesday.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have been escalating since U.S. President Donald Trump announced his decision to try to cut Iran's oil exports to zero and beef up the U.S. military presence in the Gulf in response to what he said were Iranian threats.

But despite the rhetoric, last week Trump told his acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, that he did not want to go to war with Iran.

Sending additional U.S. troops to the region would mark a shift in position for Trump, who has repeatedly said in the past he wanted to reduce the number of U.S. troops in the region.

Last December, Trump announced the withdrawal of 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria. In February, however, he decided to keep about 400 troops there.