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Pentagon denies plan to add 14,000 more troops in ME despite Trump's ambiguity
Published : 06 Dec 2019, 23:46
The U.S. Department of Defense on Friday repeated its denial of a report alleging it is considering adding 14,000 troops to the Middle East, despite an ambiguous position taken by U.S. President Donald Trump on the issue.
"As the Department has stated repeatedly, we were never discussing or considering sending 14,000 additional troops to the Middle East. Reports of this are flat out wrong," a statement attributed to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said.
"The Pentagon is not considering sending 14,000 troops to CENTCOM. This report is false," he said, referring to the U.S. Central Command, which covers the Middle East.
The statement was in response to a Wall Street Journal report Wednesday that cited multiple official sources as saying that plans for adding 14,000 troops to the Middle East to counter Iran are waiting for Trump's approval.
The story was refuted by a Pentagon spokeswoman hours after its release, but the rumor was kept alive as Trump publicly toyed with the notion Thursday.
"We'll be announcing whatever we may be doing, may or may not be doing," Trump said when pressed on the issue at the White House.
Trump tweeted late Thursday saying a report suggesting an addition of 12,000 troops to the Middle East as "fake news."
A separate report by CNN Thursday cited defense officials as saying an addition of 4,000 to 7,000 more troops to the Middle East was "the most realistic."
The conflicting information has infuriated some U.S. lawmakers, who pressed Pentagon's third highest official John Rood at a hearing Thursday. Rood stopped short of ruling out additional deployment to the Middle East, leaving the door to adjusting force posture there open.
The new troops would join the nearly 14,000 U.S. military members sent to the region since May, reportedly to counter Iran. The move has led to questions on Trump's commitment to his election pledge of drawing down the number of U.S. troops in the Middle East, where the United States is simultaneously engaged in multiple military campaigns.