US to send thousands more troops to Saudi Arabia in response to attack on oil facilities

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VIDEO: The USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and an Air Force B-52 Stratofortress flex their muscles in the Persian Gulf

VIDEO: The USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and an Air Force B-52 Stratofortress flex their muscles in the Persian Gulf

WASHINGTON -- The United States is planning to send a large number of additional forces to Saudi Arabia following the Sept. 14 attack on its oil facilities, which Washington and Riyadh have blamed on Iran, the Pentagon announced on Friday

Defense Secretary Mark Esper authorized the deployment of 3,000 additional U.S. forces to Saudi Arabia, Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman confirmed on Friday

Esper informed Saudi Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Muhammad bin Salman of the additional troop deployment "to assure and enhance the defense of Saudi Arabia" on Friday morning, Hoffman said.

The deployment includes two fighter squadrons, one air expeditionary wings (AEW), two Patriot missile batteries, and one Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.

The new deployment constitutes an additional 3,000 forces that have been extended or authorized in Saudi Arabia in the last month, Hoffman said, adding that Esper has increased the number of U.S. forces deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility by approximately 14,000 "as an investment into regional security."

"As we have stated, the United States does not seek conflict with the Iranian regime, but we will retain a robust military capability in the region that is ready to respond to any crisis and will defend U.S. forces and interest in the region," Hoffman said

The deployment is part of a series of what the United States has described as defensive moves following the attack on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities last month, which rattled global energy markets and exposed major gaps in Saudi Arabia's air defenses.

Iran has responded to previous U.S. troop deployments this year with apprehension. It denies responsibility for the attack on Saudi Arabia as well as attacks on oil tankers earlier this year.