(The Hill) – Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Sunday that the United States is upping its presence in the Middle East because of the risk of escalated attacks on American troops.
“What we’re seeing is a prospect of a significant escalation of attacks on our troops and our people throughout the region,” Austin said on ABC’s “This Week.” “And because of that, we’re going to do what’s necessary to make sure that our troops are in that position and they were protected and that we have the ability to respond.”
He also said that upping the military presence in the region will “send another message to those who would who would seek to widen this conflict.” In response to potential attacks from Hezbollah in Lebanon and from Iran, the administration has told any other groups seeking to get involved “don’t.”
“If any group or any country is looking to widen this conflict and take advantage of this very unfortunate situation that we see. Our advice is don’t,” he said. “We maintain the right to defend ourselves and we won’t hesitate to take the appropriate action.”
The United States announced plans to ramp up its military presence in the Middle East as an act of deterrence amid the ongoing fighting between Israel and the militant group Hamas on Saturday. Austin said in the announcement that he redirected the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Strike Group to join the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group, which is currently stationed in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
He said in the Saturday announcement that the U.S. will deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery in addition to Patriot battalions that will “increase force protection for U.S. forces.” He also said that he ordered more troops to prepare for deployment orders.
The U.S. has vowed to back Israel in its war against the militant group Hamas, which launched an unprecedented, deadly attack on Israel on Oct. 7 that prompted Israel to declare war on the group and launch a series of airstrikes targeting the group’s hotspots. The U.S. has designated Hamas as a terrorist organization.