WASHINGTON — The United States is negotiating with Kuwait to allow several thousand US combat troops now in Iraq to redeploy to the Gulf emirate to counter Iran’s influence in the region, US defense officials said Thursday.
“Discussions are underway” with Kuwaiti leaders but no final agreement has been reached, a senior defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.
The talks are focused on redeploying a combat brigade team — about 3,500 troops — and possibly additional units to Kuwait, three US officials said.
The United States already has roughly 20,000 forces in Kuwait but commanders and administration officials are keen to bolster the military’s presence in the Gulf amid concerns about instability in Iraq and Iran’s role in the region.
One official said redeploying combat troops from Iraq might not change the total number of US forces in Kuwait, because support units are likely to be withdrawn from the country with the exit of American troops from neighboring Iraq.
It was possible the total number of US forces could decrease even if combat troops from Iraq are moved to Kuwait, the official added.
The comments came as leaders of an Army brigade posted messages on the unit’s Facebook page saying their troops would be redeployed to Kuwait.
According to posts from the commander and command sergeant major of the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, the unit will complete its 12-month tour, which began in Iraq in mid-July 2011, in Kuwait.
“Troops and families of the 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division are being notified that 1/1 CAV will likely be repositioned … for the remainder of their 12-month deployment,” said a post signed “Ironhorse 6,” meaning the unit’s commander, Colonel Scott Efflandt.
“This force will function as a reserve in the region to provide maximum flexibility for response to contingencies,” it said.
“It also demonstrates our lasting commitment to regional stability and security, and the robust security relationships we maintain with our regional partners,” it said.
A later post signed “Ironhorse 9,” meaning Command Sergeant Major Lance Lehr, confirmed the news, and gave the unit’s mailing address as Camp Beuhring, Kuwait.
The unit has been “re-missioned for another task within our scope of responsibility in accordance with our original deployment orders,” the post said.
“Of course, we all wanted to come home early, but we knew that our mission required us to be deployed for a full year.”
All of the roughly 31,000 US soldiers remaining in Iraq are to leave the country before the end of 2011, under a 2008 security pact.