WASHINGTON (Dispatches) – U.S. President Donald Trump has rejected any "need" for additional troop deployments in the Middle East after reports claimed the Pentagon was considering sending up to 10,000 troops to the region.
"I don’t think we’re going to need them. I really don’t,” Trump told reporters on Thursday. "I would certainly send troops if we need them,” he added.
Trump made the comments shortly after the Associated Press reported that the Pentagon would present plans to the White House to send up to 10,000 troops, quoting unnamed U.S. officials.
Reuters published a similar report, putting the probable deployment number at 5,000. The reports presented the measures as seeking to "beef up defenses against Iran amid heightened tensions in the region”.
The two reports were, however, specifically rejected by acting Pentagon Patrick Shanahan earlier on Thursday.
"I got up this morning and read that we were sending 10,000 troops to the Middle East, and then I read more recently that there was 5,0000," Shanahan said.
"There is no 10,000 and there is no 5,000, and that's not accurate,” he added.
The rumors surrounding a probable U.S. troop deployment to the Middle East came after the U.S. deployed an aircraft carrier strike group and a bomber task force in the Persian Gulf earlier this month to counter a "threat” from Tehran.
Last week, the New York Times reported that Trump’s team had gone as far as drawing up plans for a possible military strike against Iran that could involve sending 120,000 soldiers to the Middle East.
Similar to what happened on Thursday, however, the report was rejected shortly afterwards by the U.S. president.
"I think it's fake news, OK? Now, would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that. Hopefully we're not going to have to plan for that,” Trump said.
Last Friday, media outlets reported that Trump had ordered his administration to avoid a military confrontation with Iran.
The U.S. State Department failed to meet a deadline on Thursday to provide information to three congressional committee chairmen looking into whether an annual arms control report slanted and politicized assessments about Iran, a congressional aide said.
In a May 16 letter, the Democratic chairmen of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs, Armed Services and Intelligence committees asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to provide a State Department briefing and documents no later than Thursday.
The chairmen’s letter cited a Reuters article on April 17 about how the administration’s annual report to Congress on global compliance with international arms control accords provoked a dispute with U.S. intelligence agencies and some State Department officials.
The dissenting officials, sources said, were concerned that the document politicized and skewed assessments against Iran in a bid to lay the groundwork to justify military action.
In their May 16 letter to Pompeo, the three chairmen said they were "deeply concerned” the arms control report may have been produced by political appointees "disregarding intelligence or distorting its meaning.”
The State Department, they noted, was legally bound to submit to Congress a "detailed report” on compliance by the United States and other countries with international arms control accords.
Instead, they wrote, this year’s report was only 12 pages long, "contains no meaningful discussion” of U.S. and Russian compliance with such agreements and "consists largely of hypotheticals or opinion.”
Several sources told Reuters that the report made them wonder if the administration was painting Iran in the darkest light possible, much as the George W. Bush administration used bogus and exaggerated intelligence to justify its 2003 invasion of Iraq.