US Defense Secretary Mark Esper today authorized the deployment in Saudi Arabia of 3,000 additional troops and weapons systems, mainly Patriot missiles and fighter jets, according to a Pentagon announcement.
US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has authorized the deployment of two fighter squadrons, one Air Expeditionary Wing (AEW), two batteries of Patriot missile defense systems and one Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD), Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Friday.
This is in addition to the 200 or so troops, Patriots and radar systems whose deployment was announced two weeks ago, and amounts to 3,000 troops “extended or authorized within the last month,” Hoffman clarified.
The Pentagon has increased the number of US forces in the Central Command (CENTCOM) area of operations by about 14,000 since May this year, as it continues to lock horns with Tehran. Not all of those went to Saudi Arabia, however, as CENTCOM’s area of operations covers the entire Middle East, including Afghanistan and Syria.
The US “does not seek conflict with the Iranian regime, but we will retain a robust military capability in the region that is ready to respond to any crisis and will defend US forces and interests in the region,” Hoffman said.
Minister Esper briefed Saudi Arabia’s Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman this morning on “the deployment of additional forces to secure and strengthen Saudi Arabia’s defense”.
By the end of September, the United States had already announced the deployment of 200 troops to the kingdom, the first of its kind since the US withdrawal in 2003.