“The tempo is coming back,” Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie Jr., who heads U.S. Central Command, said during a visit to a constellation of tiny American outposts in eastern Syria.
American troops in Syria, like those in neighboring Iraq, shifted their focus from anti-extremist operations to force protection after a Jan. 3 strike in Baghdad killed Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s most influential military figure.
The general’s trip comes as part of a series of visits by several high ranking military chiefs including the head of the US Air Force Gen. David Goldfien, USAFE (United States Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa) Commander Gen. Jeffery L. Harrigian and the Commander of US Central Command (CENTCOM) Gen. Kenneth McKenzie.
At the request of U.S. Central Command, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper authorized the deployment of additional U.S. forces and the following equipment to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia:
Defense Secretary Mark Esper had authorized the deployment last month at the request of U.S. Central Command and informed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the country’s defense minister of the action earlier Friday.
The confirmation came after Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, chief of CENTCOM, and other top U.S. commanders met with Bahrain’s king in the capital, Manama. Bahrain is the headquarters of the U.S. Fifth Fleet.
What Centcom officers were worried about is that they would take a back seat to the European and Pacific commands. In fact, there’s a clear, if unstated, pecking order among the commands, retired Col. Kevin Benson, a former director of the Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies, notes. ‘The three most important commands are in Europe, which is Eucom, the Pacific, which is Pacom and now, because of Iran, the Middle East – which is Centcom. Southcom, the Southern Command, is almost always last in priority.’
It was not clear whether Mr. Trump simply changed his mind on the strikes or whether the administration altered course because of logistics or strategy. It was also not clear whether the attacks might still go forward.
Asked about the plans for a strike and the decision to hold back, the White House declined to comment, as did Pentagon officials. No government officials asked The New York Times to withhold the article.
U.S. President Donald Trump approved military strikes against Iran in retaliation for downing of American global hawk drone but pulled back after planes were in the air and ships were in position, according to a report by the New York Times citing administration officials.
The report claimed the order to halt attacks on Iranian radar and missile batteries came after intense debate at the White House among top security officials and congressional leaders.
From the U.S.S. Maine in Havana Harbor in 1898 to the U.S.S. Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964, maritime incidents, shrouded in the fog of uncertainty, have lured the United States into wars on foreign shoals. Which is why cooler heads must prevail — and Congress must be consulted — as American and Iranian forces inch closer to open conflict in and around the Strait of Hormuz.
Pompeo, who arrived in Tampa on Monday, met with Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr. and Army Gen. Richard Clarke, commanders of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command respectively, to align the Government’s efforts in the Middle East, according to Central Command.
The meeting focused on deterrence plans against Iran after U.S. officials blamed the country for two recent oil tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman.
Den USA ist dieser Punkt besonders wichtig: Washington widerspricht dem Vorwurf, das Militär habe die iranischen Grenzen verletzt. Es habe vor dem Abschuss keine Provokation von US-Seite gegeben, erklärte Navy Captain Bill Urban vom Central Command.
Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) said the aircraft had violated Iranian airspace, and that the incident sent a „clear message to America“.
But the US military insisted the drone had been over international waters at the time, and condemned what it called an „unprovoked attack“ by the IRGC.
„In response to a request from the US Central Command for additional forces, and with the advice of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and in consultation with the White House, I have authorized approximately 1,000 additional troops for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East,“ acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said in a statement.
In the hours before the attack on the two tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday, the Iranians spotted a US drone flying overhead and launched a surface-to-air missile at the unmanned aircraft, a US official told CNN.
The missile missed the drone and fell into the water, the official said.
„We received reports that something flew towards the ship,“ Yutaka Katada, president of Kokuka Sangyo, said at a press conference Friday. „I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship,“ he said, adding that a projectile landed above the waterline. (…)
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
The heavily guarded compound was already on a heightened state of alert after nonemergency personnel there and at the United States Consulate in the northern city of Erbil were ordered last week to leave.
The order came after the Trump administration announced that new intelligence indicated a heightened risk that Iranian forces or proxies were considering an imminent attack on American forces or interests in the Persian Gulf or Iraq.
„There’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria,“ Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika, a deputy commander for the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, told reporters at a Pentagon news briefing. „We are monitoring the Shia militia groups carefully and if the threat level perceives to go up them we will raise our force protection levels accordingly.“
But after being pressed by reporters on the matter, Ghika engaged in verbal gymnastics to try to say he was on the same page as the White House by saying the coalition monitors a range of possible threats and it raises and lowers security levels appropriately.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met quietly Monday with the head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, and the two men discussed continued “cooperation” between the two nations in fighting terrorism, according to Riyadh’s state-run news agency.
B-52H Stratofortress aircraft assigned to the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron from Louisiana’s Barksdale Air Force Base took off from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, U.S. Air Forces Central Command said in a brief statement Monday. Additional bombers in the task force had been deployed to an unspecified base in the Middle East.
“They’re here to defend our forces and interests,” said Lt. Col. Christine Millette, a spokeswoman for Air Forces Central Command. Millette did not provide further mission details.
Newly promoted General Kenneth F. McKenzie on Thursday, March 28 took over the leadership of United States Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East including the conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan. At a ceremony led by Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, McKenzie pledged to continue the work done by his predecessor, General Joseph Votel, who is retiring.