Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan on Thursday refuted reports that Washington was planning to send as many as 10,000 troops to the Middle East amid raised tensions with Iran.
“There is no 10,000 and there is no 5,000. That's not accurate," Shanahan said. "What we're focused on right now is: do we have the right force protection in the Middle East?"
On Wednesday, multiple news outlets reported, citing U.S. officials, that the Pentagon was planning to brief Congress on sending 5,000 troops to the Middle East. The Wall Street Journal reported that there may be as many as 10,000 troops deployed to the region.
"Numbers get floated out there, and you've got lots of good sources of information. And what I'm telling you is those sources right now aren't feeding you the right information," Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon.
The defense secretary said that the deployment of 5,000 troops was not something that was proposed in the Pentagon.
However, Shanahan did note the department was looking at increasing its force protection in the Middle East, a move that he said "may involve sending additional troops."
Force prevention is a term used by the Pentagon to discuss preventive measures that could be taken to mitigate hostile actions against the U.S. by various entities and groups.
The comments by Shanahan come after he had said earlier this week that the threat from Iran was "put on hold", crediting the deployment of U.S. firepower to the Middle East with countering any threats from Tehran or its proxy forces and signaling a break in tensions following a sharp rise in mutual threats and provocations.
Citing a "credible threat" from Iran, the U.S. sent a carrier strike group, bomber task force, and Patriot missile defense battery to the Middle East earlier this month to send a "clear and unmistakable message to Iran".