The United States is sending nearly 3 000 additional troops to the Middle East from the 82nd Airborne Division as a precaution amid rising threats to American forces in the region, the Pentagon said.
A senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said additional deployments were also being weighed, including sending elements of the Europe-based 173rd Airborne Brigade for tasks like embassy protection in Lebanon.
Iran promised vengeance after a US air strike in Baghdad on Friday killed Qassem Soleimani, Tehran’s most prominent military commander and the architect of its growing influence in the Middle East.
The overnight attack, authorised by President Donald Trump, was a dramatic escalation in a “shadow war” in the Middle East between Iran and the United States and its allies, principally Israel and Saudi Arabia.
The Pentagon said the Immediate Response Force (IRF) brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division was being deployed.
“The brigade will deploy to Kuwait as an appropriate and precautionary action in response to increased threat levels against US personnel and facilities and will assist in reconstituting the reserve,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
The troops will join the roughly 750 soldiers sent to Kuwait earlier. Usually, a brigade consists of about 3 500 people.
US officials told Reuters thousands of additional troops could be sent to the region and were told to prepare for deployment.
The United States dispatched about 14 000 additional troops to the Middle East since May last year.
Reuters first reported US Defence Secretary Mark Esper cancelled plans to take personal leave in January amid rising tension with Iran.
The US air strike followed an increase in US-Iranian hostilities when pro-Iranian militiamen attacked the US embassy in Iraq following a US air raid on the Kataib Hezbollah militia.
Iraq’s prime minister said with Friday’s attack Washington violated a deal for keeping US troops in his country.