300 More Troops Head to Middle East Amid Constant Drone and Rocket Attacks

Special Forces counter-ISIS operations training in southern Syria
Special Forces unit conducts 50. Cal weapons training during counter ISIS operations at Al Tanf Garrison in southern Syria. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob Connor)

The Pentagon is deploying 300 more troops to the Middle East as attacks against U.S. military bases in Iraq and Syria continue to grow and have taken on a near-daily frequency.

"These additional troops will provide capabilities in explosive ordnance disposal, communications and other support enablers for forces already in the region," Pentagon top spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters Tuesday.

The news of the extra troops comes just a week after the Pentagon deployed Army air defense units from three bases across the U.S., and after 14 new drone and rocket attacks on locations in Iraq and Syria since Oct. 24. The deployment also comes after it moved two carrier strike groups to the region earlier this month to support Israel as it wages war against Hamas.

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    Ryder told reporters that the Defense Department is now tracking a total of 27 attacks -- 16 in Iraq, 11 in Syria -- since Oct. 17. The Pentagon conducted a retaliatory strike with U.S. fighter jets Oct. 26 on two locations in eastern Syria that were linked to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

    Attacks on U.S. bases on Oct. 17 and Oct. 18 left 21 U.S. personnel with "minor injuries." Of those injuries, 19 were diagnosed as traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, a defense official told Military.com last week.

    Ryder said that the more recent attacks have inflicted no injuries and no damage to the targeted bases.

    Despite the massive show of military forces in the region to support Israel, the Pentagon has firmly maintained that it sees these attacks and the latest troop deployments as unrelated to the conflict between Israeli forces and Hamas. That war began earlier this month when Hamas brutally attacked Israel, killing about 1,400 Israelis.

    "Our forces are in Iraq and Syria for one purpose -- which is the enduring defeat of ISIS. ... This is separate and distinct from the situation in Israel," Ryder said, referring to the Islamic State terrorist group.

    However, on Monday, Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told reporters that officials started seeing attacks in Iraq and Syria on Oct. 17; on that same day, the Pentagon announced that it was placing around 2,000 troops on "prepare to deploy orders." The 300 new deploying troops are part of that group.

    "We will not discuss specific deployment locations for these forces, but I can confirm they're not going to Israel and that they are intended to support regional deterrence efforts and further bolster U.S. force protection capabilities," Ryder said of the newly deployed forces.

    In addition to forces on the ground and an increase to some of the squadrons in the area, the Pentagon has moved the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford and its strike group, as well as a command ship, into the waters of Israel.

    It also ordered the recently deployed USS Dwight D. Eisenhower strike group into the waters in the Middle East and moved a pair of ships carrying a Marine expeditionary force into the Red Sea.

    -- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at konstantin.toropin@military.com. Follow him on X at @ktoropin.

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