(JNS) The Pentagon is looking into keeping a reaction force of roughly 3,500 U.S. troops sent to the Middle East in January in response to Iranian-backed riots at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
The Daily Beast reported this week about the possible extension of the deployment of the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division to Kuwait.
Such a move would indicate that the coronavirus pandemic, in which Iran is one of the hardest-hit countries, will likely not reduce the risk of military escalation with Iran.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper issued a 60-day freeze of U.S. troops overseas this month due to the virus. The extension request to Esper was made by Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, head of the U.S. Central Command, and was “not a result of the freeze, although the extension would last through the end of the freeze,” reported The Daily Beast.
“We hate that this was an unplanned deployment, and that it’s impossible to have any certainty about when we will get home,” a soldier in the brigade told the outlet. “Even if it’s stupid and we have to deal with Iranian militias, it’s part of the job. But we just hate the uncertainty.”
Tensions have risen between the United States and Iran since the former withdrew in May 2018 from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal—reimposing sanctions lifted under it, along with enacting new financial penalties against the regime—and the January 3 U.S. elimination of the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, at Baghdad International Airport.