Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III has ordered about 2,000 more U.S. troops to prepare to deploy to the Middle East in support of Israel, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, as Israeli forces prepare to launch a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.
The troops are currently stationed in the United States and other locations, including Europe, a Pentagon official said. If deployed, they would likely not serve in combat roles but would provide advice and medical support to Israeli forces, the official added.
The Pentagon said in a statement that while a decision on whether to deploy the forces had not been made, Mr. Austin’s order to increase their readiness helps the Pentagon’s “ability to respond quickly to the evolving security environment in the Middle East.”
On Monday, a U.S. official said that a U.S. Marines rapid response force, consisting of about 2,000 Marines and sailors, was sailing toward the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Mr. Austin also extended the deployment of the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford and its accompanying warships, now in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The ships had been scheduled to return home next month after a six-month deployment. A second carrier, the Dwight D. Eisenhower, is expected to arrive in the region in the next several days.