The U.S. military will send about 3,500 additional soldiers to the Middle East following the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani less than a day earlier, NBC News reported Friday, citing three U.S. defense officials and one U.S. military official.
The new troops are being deployed to Iraq, Kuwait and other parts of the region, NBC reported. The deployment of one brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division — 700 of which have already been dispatched to the Middle East — are ordered to serve as a response to threats throughout the region, according to NBC.
But the defense officials maintain that the additional soldiers is not a direct response to Soleimani’s death, which has enraged Iran’s leadership and spurred incendiary threats of vengeance from the oil-rich Middle Eastern nation.
Rather, it is rather a continuation of an earlier announcement this week to send troops to the region, the officials told NBC.
The U.S. announced late Thursday that it carried out a surprise airstrike in Baghdad that killed Soleimani, one of Iran’s most powerful figures who has been blamed for the deaths of hundreds of Americans.
The State Department has urged U.S. citizens to leave Iraq.
The Defense Department said in a statement that the “decisive defensive action” was taken “to protect U.S. personnel abroad,” claiming that Soleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”
Soleimani also gave a green light for the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place days earlier, according to the Pentagon.
The new deployment is the latest in a series of aggressive moves between the U.S. and Iran.
Over the weekend, the U.S. carried out military strikes in Iraq and Syria against an Iran-backed Shiite Muslim militia group. A wave of protests in Iraq followed, culminating in the attack on U.S. Embassy on New Year’s Eve.
Stocks fell Friday, while oil prices surged higher.
President Donald Trump defended the airstrike in a pair of tweets Monday morning.
“General Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more…but got caught!” Trump wrote. “He should have been taken out many years ago!”