US President Donald Trump has rejected any "need" for additional troop deployments in the Middle East after reports claimed the Pentagon was considering sending up to 10,000 troops to the region.
“I don’t think we’re going to need them. I really don’t,” Trump told reporters on Thursday. “I would certainly send troops if we need them,” he added.
Trump made the comments shortly after the Associated Press reported that the Pentagon would present plans to the White House on Thursday to send up to 10,000 troops, quoting unnamed US officials.
Earlier on Thursday, Reuters also published a similar report, putting the probable deployment number at 5,000.
The reports presented the measures as seeking to “beef up defenses against Iran amid heightened tensions in the region”.
The two reports were, however, specifically rejected by acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan earlier on Thursday.
"I got up this morning and read that we were sending 10,000 troops to the Middle East, and then I read more recently that there was 5,0000," Shanahan said.
"There is no 10,000 and there is no 5,000, and that's not accurate,” he added.
The rumors surrounding a probable US troop deployment to the Middle East came after the US deployed an aircraft carrier strike group and a bomber task force in the Persian Gulf earlier this month to counter a “threat” from Tehran.
Last week, the New York Times reported that Trump’s team had gone as far as drawing up plans for a possible military strike against Iran that could involve sending 120,000 soldiers to the Middle East.
Similar to what happened on Thursday, however, the report was rejected shortly afterwards by the US president.
"I think it's fake news, OK? Now, would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that. Hopefully we're not going to have to plan for that,” Trump said.
Last Friday, media outlets reported that Trump had ordered his administration to avoid a military confrontation with Iran.
There are also reports of the Trump administration having failed to convince US lawmakers of the alleged Iranian “threat” after presenting a congressional committee with related “intelligence” last week.
Many lawmakers have said the administration is “inflating threats and bending intelligence” to push for war against the country.
On Thursday, the US State Department failed to meet a congressional deadline explaining about possible biased statements against Iran in an annual arms controls report.
The three Democratic chairmen of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs, Armed Services and Intelligence committees had asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week to provide explanations after concerns emerged that the report had made the assessments in an attempt to lay the groundwork for a probable war.
Various reports in the past months have also suggested that Trump has been specifically at odds with his National Security Adviser John Bolton and Pompeo over their push for military confrontation with Tehran.