Washington maintains that there are no plans to put American boots on the ground
US Air Force personnel in Iraq have been ordered to remain on standby in case of “on ground US involvement in the Israel Hamas war,” The Intercept reported on Tuesday, citing a Pentagon memo.
Circulated earlier this month, the memo instructs an unknown number of troops to be placed “on standby to forward deploy to support troops in the case of on ground US involvement in the Israel Hamas war,” the news site reported. The standby order applies to troops stationed in Iraq since last year, according to a separate Pentagon document seen by The Intercept.
The Pentagon did not respond to a request for comment.
The White House has stated on several occasions since October that its support for the Jewish state would not involve American soldiers fighting alongside their Israeli counterparts.
The US responded to Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel by immediately dispatching two aircraft carriers to the region and preparing 2,000 additional troops for deployment to the Middle East, but White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on October 10 that “there is no intention to put US boots on the ground” in Israel or Gaza.
However, US special forces have been active in Israel since October, with senior official Christopher Maier telling reporters at the time that American commandos were “actively helping the Israelis to do a number of things.” The Pentagon has also admitted to flying spy drones over Gaza “in support of hostage recovery efforts.”
Since the conflict began, US troops in Iraq, Syria, and Jordan have come under fire more than 150 times, with Iran-aligned Shi’ite militias subjecting their bases to regular drone and rocket barrages. One such attack on an outpost in Jordan on Sunday killed three US soldiers and injured several dozen others.
American ships and warplanes have also launched several strikes against Houthi militants in Yemen, in a bid to break the Houthi blockade on “Israel-linked” merchant shipping passing through the Red Sea. The Houthis have responded by targeting US commercial and military vessels in the area. On Wednesday, the militants announced that they had fired multiple missiles at the destroyer USS Gravely.
US Central Command, which oversees American military operations in the Middle East, said that the Graveley shot down one incoming missile, and suffered no damage or casualties.
January 31, 2024 at 07:12PM