Trump: I don't think we need more troops in Middle East

US President says he does not think additional US troops are needed in the Middle East to counter Iran.

Elad Benari ,

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump said on Thursday he did not think additional US troops are needed in the Middle East to counter Iran.

“I don’t think we’re going to need them. I really don’t,” Trump told reporters, according to the Reuters news agency. “I would certainly send troops if we need them.”

“We’ll be there in whatever number we need” if troops are required, he added.

Trump, who has been focused on trying to reduce the number of US troops deployed around the world, spoke shortly before he was to be briefed at the White House on a new deployment plan by acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

Shanahan said the Pentagon was considering sending additional US troops to the Middle East as one of the ways to bolster protection for American forces there amid tensions with Iran.

“What we’re looking at is: Are there things that we can do to enhance force protection in the Middle East?” Shanahan said, according to Reuters.

“It may involve sending additional troops,” he added.

But Shanahan, in remarks to reporters outside the Pentagon, dismissed reports suggesting specific numbers of troops were being considered at this point, saying, “As soon as there’s a change, I’ll give you an update.”

The comments follow reports that the US Department of Defense is considering a US military request to send about 5,000 additional troops to the Middle East amid increasing tensions with Iran.

“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 on Thursday.

“There is no 10,000 and there is no 5,000,” he stressed.

Tensions between the US and Iran have increased recently in the wake of the US military’s deployment of an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Middle East. US officials said the move was made to counter “clear indications” of threats from Iran to American forces in the region.

While President Donald Trump has urged Iran’s leaders to talk with him about giving up their nuclear program, he has also made clear he could not rule out a military confrontation with the Islamic Republic.

On Monday, Trump said that Iran would be met with "great force" if it attempted anything against US interests in the Middle East, though he stressed he was willing to have talks with Iran "when they're ready."

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani later said that he favors talks and diplomacy but not under current conditions.

"Today's situation is not suitable for talks and our choice is resistance only," said Rouhani.