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Remarks by Acting Secretary Shanahan in a Media Availability Prior to an Honor Cordon Ceremony Welcoming the Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh

May 23, 2019
Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan

ACTING SECRETARY OF DEFENSE PATRICK SHANAHAN: Hi, everybody. How are you? How are you all doing?

Q: So are you sending troops to Middle East?

SEC. SHANAHAN: Let me -- yeah, let me talk about that. I -- I got up this morning and read that we were sending 10,000 troops to the Middle East, and then I read more recently there was 5,000, I think.

I want to make kind of a couple comments about the process. There is no 10,000, and there's no 5,000, and that -- that's not, you know, accurate. What I can tell you is that I'm in regular contact with General McKenzie, and I'll be meeting with the chairman, and then I have some other -- other briefings to do. So that is not the number.

What we're focused on right now is do we have the right force protection in the Middle East? And as soon as there's a change, I promise I'll give you an update. But those numbers are not correct.


Q: Sir, what do you mean by provoking a conflict with Iran, Mr. Secretary? How do you answer that?

SEC. SHANAHAN: Yeah, can you say that one more time?

Q: Many lawmakers say the U.S. is provoking a military conflict with Iran. What's your response?

SEC. SHANAHAN: Well, my response is I think they have the same sensitivity as all of us, and that is we want to avoid the risk of Iranian miscalculation. So you know, I think those are fair comments, and you know, our job is deterrence. This is not about war. We have a mission there in the Middle East: freedom of navigation, you know, counterterrorism in Syria and Iraq, you know, defeating al Qaeda in Yemen, and then the security of Israel and Jordan.


Q: You said the 5,000 is not correct.


Q: What does that mean? It has -- you're saying that it has not been proposed?

SEC. SHANAHAN: No, it has not been proposed.


No, what I -- here's what I would tell you, and you guys are great about this. This is why I wanted to come talk to you. As soon as we have something to talk about, we'll tell you. But numbers gets floated out there, and I -- you've got lots of, you know, good sources of information, and what I'm telling you is those sources right now aren't feeding you the right information. And as soon as anything changes, I'll let you know. I really will.


Q: Will you be proposing that, sir, later today, and at the White House meeting, that...

SEC. SHANAHAN: No, that -- like I said earlier, there's no 5,000 number, and there's no 10,000 number.


Q: So just clarify. We -- we spoke about the -- it is for discussion to send additional troops. Separate from numbers...


Q: ... we did not report numbers.


Q: Separate from numbers, it is correct that you are considering, for force protection and everything you just said, sending additional troops to the Middle East.

SEC. SHANAHAN: No, we're considering...

Q: Considering.

SEC. SHANAHAN: Yeah, no, no, absolutely, Barbara. What we're looking at is are there things that we can do to enhance force protection in the Middle East? So you're absolutely right.

Q: Which involves sending additional troops.

SEC. SHANAHAN: It may involve sending additional troops.


SEC. SHANAHAN: Yeah, yeah, I'm going to run back here.


Q: (inaudible) requesting additional forces.

SEC. SHANAHAN: Well, we talk to CENTCOM all the time, as you know, and so it's back-and-forth, in terms of General McKenzie. What are you seeing? What are you hearing? How can we be more helpful?

I've got to run. We can talk upstairs, OK? Thank you.

Q: But just to be clear, are you suggesting they're all defensive, the troop movements? Any troop movements will all be defensive in nature?

SEC. SHANAHAN: We continue to look at force protection, OK? All right? Thank you.