“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.”
If needed, “we’ll be there in whatever number we need”, he added.
Trump, who has been focused on trying to reduce the number of US troops deployed around the world, spoke shortly before he was to be briefed at the White House on a new deployment plan by acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.
Shanahan said the Pentagon was considering sending additional US troops to the Middle East as one of the ways to bolster protection for US forces there amid tensions with Iran.
“What we’re looking at is: are there things that we can do to enhance force protection in the Middle East?” Shanahan said. “It may involve sending additional troops.”
But Shanahan, in remarks to reporters outside the Pentagon, dismissed reports suggesting specific numbers of troops were being considered at this point, saying: “As soon as there’s a change, I’ll give you an update.”
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have been steadily escalating in recent weeks as Trump tightens sanctions meant to cut off Iran’s ability to sell oil in global markets.
The Trump administration is also warning of possible Iranian plots against the US and its allies.
Iran denies the accusations and Washington has not publicly shown any evidence of specific intelligence on what it says is an Iranian threat. Its claim has been met with widespread scepticism outside the US.
Any decision to send additional US troops would follow a move to accelerate the deployment of a carrier strike group to the Middle East and send bombers and Patriot missiles to the region in response to what Washington said were troubling indications of possible preparations for an attack by Iran.
On Wednesday, unnamed US officials told Reuters news agency the request for 5,000 more soldiers had been made by US Central Command, while the Associated Press news agency quoted unidentified officials as saying that the Pentagon would present plans to the White House to send up to 10,000 more troops to the Middle East.
“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.”
The Pentagon regularly receives – and declines – requests for additional resources from US combatant commands throughout the world.
A senior commander of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on Thursday described the standoff between Tehran and Washington as a “clash of wills”.
“The confrontation and face-off of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the malicious government of America is the arena for a clash of wills,” said Iran’s armed forces chief of staff Major General Mohammad Baqeri.
He pointed to a battle during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war where Iran was victorious and said the outcome could be a message that it will have a “hard, crushing and obliterating response” for any enemy “adventurism”.
On Sunday, Trump tweeted: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!” But he has also signalled a willingness to talk to Tehran.
Al Jazeera and news agencies