U.S. President Donald Trump said Friday that 1,500 additional troops would be deployed to the Middle East amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington.
The deployment is aimed at increasing protection for forces already in the region as well as weaponry such as a Patriot missile defense battery that was deployed earlier in the month.
"We want to have protection," Trump told reporters outside the White House prior to departing for a trip to Japan.
The news comes after acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan denied earlier reports that the Trump administration was planning to send as many as 10,000 troops to the region.
Shanahan said the Pentagon was looking at ways to increase force protection in the region, a term used to discuss preventive measures that could be taken to mitigate hostile actions against the U.S. by various entities and groups.
He, however, said that sending additional troops was an option they were considering.
The deployment comes amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Earlier this month, the U.S. sent a carrier strike group and bomber task force to the Middle East, citing a "credible threat" from Tehran.
Washington’s latest move is part of a series of actions designed to exert pressure on Iran, including re-imposing sanctions on Iranian oil exports and ending sanctions waivers for countries buying Iranian oil.
The Trump administration has also designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a branch of Iran's armed forces, as a terrorist group. In response, Iran designated U.S. Central Command as a terrorist group, creating the potential for a clash between the two sides in the Middle East.
"I don’t think Iran wants to fight. And I certainly don’t think they want to fight with us," Trump said.
The president's announcement has received a mixed response from Congress, with some supporting it and some strongly against it.
Congressman Mac Thornberry, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said it was a necessary step to "protect our forces and deter Iran" in a statement obtained by news site The Hill.
However, Republican Senator Rand Paul on Twitter urged Trump to reconsider the decision to send more troops.
"This escalation doesn’t get us out of our decades long, seemingly endless wars Mr. President. Trust your instincts and follow what you ran on, not the neocons around who want to repeat past mistakes," Paul tweeted.
By Umar Farooq in Washington