WASHINGTON: The Pentagon said Friday it has approved the deployment of 3,000 additional troops and military hardware to Saudi Arabia, boosting the country’s defenses after attacks on its oil installations blamed on Iran.
US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper authorized the deployment of two more Patriot missile batteries, one THAAD ballistic missile interception system, two fighter squadrons and one air expeditionary wing, the Pentagon said in a statement.
“Secretary Esper informed Saudi Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman this morning of the additional troop deployment to assure and enhance the defense of Saudi Arabia,” it said.
“Taken together with other deployments this constitutes an additional 3,000 forces that have been extended or authorized within the last month,” it said.
Esper later told reporters that the deployments were in response “to continued threats in the region” and came after a conversation with the Saudi leadership about “efforts to protect from further Iranian aggression.”
Since May, the US has increased the number of its forces by about 14,000 in the Central Command area covering the Middle East, the defense department said.
In September, the US announced the deployment of 200 troops as well as Patriot missiles to the kingdom in the wake of the attacks on Saudi oil installations blamed on Iran.
Last month, drone attacks caused fires in two major Saudi Aramco facilities in the kingdom.
The attacks hit the world’s largest oil processing plant at Abqaiq near Damman in Eastern Province and the country’s second-largest oilfield at Khurais, about 200 kilometers away.
Following that, Donald Trump called the Saudi crown prince to reassert his country’s “readiness to cooperate with the Kingdom, by all means conducive to maintain its security and stability.”
The US president said the negative effects of the attacks would be felt on the American economy as well as the world economy.
Abqaiq is located 60 kilometers southwest of Aramco’s Dhahran headquarters. It contains the world’s largest oil processing plant, handling crude from the giant Ghawar field and for export to terminals Ras Tanura — the world’s biggest offshore oil loading facility — and Juaymah. It also pumps westwards across the kingdom to Red Sea export terminals.
Khurais, 190 kilometers further southwest, is believed to produce over 1 million barrels of crude oil a day.
It has estimated reserves of over 20 billion barrels of oil, according to Aramco.