Iran treats the US military’s killing of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani as an act of war and is not planning to left it unanswered. The US leadership already promised a harsh response to any retaliatory strike. So, how many troops does the United States have in the Middle East for a conflict with Iran?
In the light of recent tensions in the early days of January, the US announced a deployment of approximately 3,000 troops to the Middle East. The deployment is in addition to 750 troops that were deployed to Kuwait, immediately following the storming of the US Embassy in Baghdad by Kata’ib Hezbollah supporters in response to the US airstrikes on positions of the group.
“As previously announced, the Immediate Response Force (IRF) brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division was alerted to prepare for deployment, and are now being deployed,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
“The brigade will deploy to Kuwait as an appropriate and precautionary action in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities, and will assist in reconstituting the reserve.”
The 3,000 additional troops are being deployed there. These approximately 3,750 soldiers join the already massive troop presence the US has in the Middle East.
To review, these are the latest estimates of US troops deployed in the area of US Central Command. In total, there are about 80,000 troops in the region, as per a recent WSJ article and official data.
In Iraq, the US has approximately 5,200 troops present, in different bases with the presumed aim of fighting against ISIS, but they also clearly partake in airstrikes on groups that are part of the Iraqi Armed Forces, to which they’re supposedly allied to. Some reports put the estimate at 6,000.
In Saudi Arabia, there’s been massive deployments in 2019 alone, between May 2019 and October 2019 approximately 14,000 troops were deployed there. From October 2019 to January 2020, another approximately 3,500 troops were also deployed there.
Regarding Saudi Arabia it should be noted that there isn’t clarity as to how many US troops exactly are there, since, for example, the Washington Post reported on January 4th that there’s 3,000 US troops stationed there.
To provide some background, in 2017, the US had 850 troops deployed in Saudi Arabia, in early 2020 it has approximately 20,000.
The most recent estimation of how many US troops there are in Qatar come from Axios, from September 21st, 2019, and they number approximately 13,000.
In Bahrain, the US has anywhere between 7,000 and 9,300 troops stationed, depending on the various reports.
In Jordan, there’s officially 2,800 US troops stationed, but in August 2019, 8,000 troops from 30 countries were deployed to Jordan for a military drill. Out of those 8,000 troops, most were US marines. How many of them are still in the country remains unclear. Thus the estimates are anywhere between the official number and 10,000.
In Kuwait, the US has approximately 13,000 troops, according to official data. The US and Kuwait have had a Defense Cooperation Agreement since the 1991 Persian Gulf War. This amount doesn’t include the 3,750 troops sent from the 82nd Airborne Division that were recently sent there. Thus, Kuwait has close to 17,000 US troops present.
In Syria, the US has around 800 troops, at one point it had upwards of 2,800 but many of them were withdrawn.
In Afghanistan, the US has approximately 14,000 US soldiers, at 6 military bases and there are an additional 8,000 soldiers from allied NATO countries present.
Turkey hosts US forces at the Incirlik Air Base, as well as at other NATO sites in the country, the estimates put the numbers between 2,500 and 3,000.
In the UAE, there are up to 5,000 troops, but estimations remain unclear, since the country has decided to assume a more passive role in opposing Iran and has, rather, looked at reconciliation.
Oman, hosts about 600 US troops, but in March 2019 it signed a deal allowing the US warplanes and warships to use its airstrips and ports. Most significantly, Oman is position along the Strait of Hormuz, which Iran has repeatedly threatened to close in the past in response to US aggression and sanctions.
Additionally, not in the Middle East, but still rather close, Italy hosts a contingent of 3,000 US troops from the 173rd airborne brigade, which were the soldiers who landed in northern Iraq in the 2003 campaign in Iraqi Kurdistan.
In the waters of the Persian Gulf, the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and its Carrier Strike Group Eight are deployed. The entire group includes between 7,000 and 8,000 sailors, aviation and military personnel.
As of December 20th, the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) made up of amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD-5), amphibious transport dock USS New York (LPD-21) and dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD-51) is also in the Persian Gulf. The Bataan Amphibious Ready Group numbers approximately 5,000 personnel in total.
Great Britain sent two warships to the Persian Gulf, to “protect its ships and citizens.”
Defence Secretary @BWallaceMP has announced that @RoyalNavy ships HMS Montrose and HMS Defender will resume accompaniments of UK-flagged commercial vessels in the Strait of Hormuz pic.twitter.com/Z4qXjnWMIA
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) January 4, 2020
To summarize, according to available data, the US has 80,000-100,000 troops deployed to the Middle East. If the troops are counted with the lowest possible estimates, the numbers stand at approximately 83,000, while the highest estimates sit at approximately 100,000, which is not a small discrepancy.
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- US Deploys More Troops to Iraq To Employ Its “Right of Self-Defense”
- United States Opened ‘Pandora’s Box’ In Middle East
- The US Military Build-Up In the Middle East Throughout 2019