By DoD News
By C. Todd Lopez
This weekend, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III directed an array of additional U.S. military capabilities to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in order to bolster the ability of American forces there to better defend themselves.
“We are going to do everything we need to do to ensure that our forces are protected,” Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said during a meeting Monday with the Pentagon press corps. “As always, we maintain the inherent right to self defense.”
Among the capabilities headed to the Middle East are the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group, a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery, also called THAAD, and additional Patriot missile battalions.
Additional U.S. troops were placed on “prepare to deploy orders,” as well, Ryder said.
He told reporters that Austin maintains continued communication with President Joe Biden and the national security team regarding the situation in Israel. Austin also talks regularly with his counterpart, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
“The focus of the department continues to be on supporting Israel’s right to defend itself from terrorist attacks, deterring a broader conflict in the region, and then ensuring force protection of our troops,” Ryder said.
On Oct. 7, terror group Hamas attacked the sovereign state of Israel, killing hundreds — including Americans. Fighting continues today between Hamas and the Israeli Defense Forces. Since the attack, the U.S. has reaffirmed its support for the Israeli Defense Forces and the Israeli people.
At the same time, the U.S. forces in the Middle East, including in Syria and Iraq, uninvolved in the conflict in Israel. The department remains concerned that some parties might hope to escalate the conflict in Israel to a larger conflict in the Middle East or to also use the opportunity to attack American forces in the region.
Ryder said the recent deployment of American military capabilities to the Centcom area of responsibility addresses those concerns.
“This is meant to be a deterrence message to those who would want to escalate this conflict into a wider regional conflict,” Ryder said. “We will do everything and take all necessary measures to protect U.S. forces and our interests overseas. No one wants to see a widening conflict, and that is our primary goal. But we will also never hesitate to protect our forces.”