1. Acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan walks down steps outiside Pentagon
2. SOUNDBITE (English) Patrick Shanahan, Acting US Secretary of Defense:
"I just want to make a couple of comments about the about the process. There is no 10,000 and there's no 5,000. That's not accurate. What I, what I can tell you is that I'm in regular contact with General ("Frank") McKenzie (Commander, US Central Command). And I'll be meeting with the chairman (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) and then I have some other other briefings to do so. That is not the number. What we're, what we're focused on right now is do we have the right force protection in the Middle East? And this as soon as there's a change, I promise I'll give you an update. But but those numbers are not correct.
(Reporter) Many lawmakers say the U.S. is provoking a military conflict with Iran. What's your response?
(Shanahan) Well my response is I think there, have the same sensitivities as all of us. And that is, we want to avoid the risk of Iranian miscalculation. So yeah I think those are fair comments. Our job is deterrence. This is not about war. We have a mission there in the Middle East. Freedom of navigation, counterterrorism in Syria and Iraq and defeating al-Qaida in Yemen and then the security of Israel and Jordan.
(Reporter) You said 5,000 is not correct. What does that mean? You're saying that it has not been proposed?
(Shanahan) No. It has not been proposed. (Reporters shouting questions) Here's the, here's what I would tell you. And you guys are great about this. This is why I wanted to come, come talk to you. As soon as we have something to talk about, we'll tell you. But numbers get floated out there and you've got lots of good sources of information. What I'm telling you is the sources right now aren't feeding you the right information and as soon as anything changes I'll let you know. I really will. (Reporters shouting questions) Like I said earlier, there's no 5,000 number and there's no 10,000 number.
(Reporter) ...discussion to send additional troops separate troop numbers. We did not report numbers separate from numbers. It is correct that you are considering for force protection, everything you just said, sending additional troops to the Middle East?
(Shanahan) No, no. Absolutely Barbara. What we're looking at is are there things that we can do to enhance force protection in the Middle East? So you're absolutely right. (Reporter) Which involves sending additional troops?
(Shanahan) It may involve sending additional troops.
(Reporter) Why is CENTCOM requesting additional forces?
(Shanahan) Well, we talk to CENTCOM all the time, as you know, and so it's back and forth in terms of General McKenzie. What are you seeing? What are you hearing? How can we be more helpful? I gotta run.
(Reporter) Are you suggesting they're all defensive? The troop movements?
(Shanahan) We continue to look at force protection."
The Pentagon was presenting proposals to the White House to send military reinforcements to the Middle East to beef up defenses against Iran amid heightened tensions in the region, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Thursday.
Shanahan told reporters the Defense Department has not yet determined how many troops it would need as part of a recently expanded military presence in the region. He said news reports giving totals of up to 10,000, including one by The Associated Press, were "not correct," but he would not say whether the actual figure could be higher or lower.
"What we're focused on right now is, do we have the right force protection in the Middle East," Shanahan said, referring to defensive forces. "It may involve sending additional troops."
He said he was in regular contact with Marine Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, the Central Command chief, about how to shape the U.S. force presence in the Mideast with potential Iranian threats in mind.
It's not clear whether the White House would approve sending all of the troops proposed by the Pentagon, whatever the number. Officials said the proposed troop reinforcements are not a response to any new threat from Iran but are aimed at strengthening security for the U.S. forces already in the region. They said the troops would be defensive forces, and the discussions include additional Patriot missile batteries, more ships and increased efforts to monitor Iran.
The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plans have not been formally announced.