FORT BRAGG, N.C. (WNCN/AP) — Soldiers from Fort Bragg’s legendary 82nd Airborne Brigade are being deployed immediately, officials said.
An infantry battalion is being deployed the same day a U.S Embassy in Iraq was attacked by Iran-supported militiamen, Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper said in a statement.
Esper said the battalion was being deployed “to the U.S. Central Command area.” He did not specify their destination, but a U.S. official familiar with the decision said they will go to Kuwait.
Esper said additional soldiers from the 82nd Airborne’s quick-deployment brigade, known officially as its Immediate Response Force, are prepared to deploy over the next several days. The U.S. official, who provided unreleased details on condition of anonymity, said the full brigade of about 4,000 soldiers may deploy.
Here is the Statement from Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper:
“At the direction of the Commander in Chief, I have authorized the deployment of an infantry battalion from the Immediate Response Force (IRF) of the 82nd Airborne Division to the U.S. Central Command area of operations in response to recent events in Iraq.
Approximately 750 soldiers will deploy to the region immediately, and additional forces from the IRF are prepared to deploy over the next several days.
This deployment is an appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities, such as we witnessed in Baghdad today. The United States will protect our people and interests anywhere they are found around the world.”
The attack on the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad by Iran-supported militiamen Tuesday is a stark demonstration that Iran can still strike at American interests.
Trump said Iran would be held “fully responsible” for the attack.
“They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!” Trump tweeted later in the afternoon. He also thanked top Iraqi government leaders for their “rapid response upon request.”
The 750 soldiers deploying immediately are in addition to 14,000 U.S. troops who have deployed to the Gulf region since May in response to concerns about Iranian aggression, including its alleged sabotage of commercial shipping in the Persian Gulf.
Tuesday’s breach of the embassy compound in Baghdad, which caused no known U.S. casualties or evacuations, revealed growing strains between Washington and Baghdad, raising questions about the future of the U.S. military mission there. The U.S. has about 5,200 troops in Iraq, mainly to train Iraqi forces and help them combat Islamic State extremists.
Trump blamed Iran for the embassy breach and called on Iraq to protect the diplomatic mission even as the U.S. reinforced the compound with Marines from Kuwait.
“Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many,” he tweeted from his estate in Florida. “We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!”
Even as Trump has argued for removing U.S. troops from Mideast conflicts, he also has singled out Iran as a malign influence in the region. After withdrawing the U.S. in 2018 from an international agreement that exchanged an easing of sanctions for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program, Trump ratcheted up sanctions.
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