US Africa Command is repositioning its forces as the US military prepares for the possibility of further evacuations of American and other citizens from the deepening conflict in South Sudan, the Pentagon said on Monday.
"The combatant commander is repositioning his forces in the region to ensure that we've got capabilities necessary to respond to any request from the State Department," Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters.
Warren declined to say whether US troops would be sent to South Sudan, where fears of an all-out civil war are mounting, or elsewhere in the region. South Sudan's government said on Monday it will start a major offensive to retake two strategic towns controlled by rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar.
On Saturday, four US troops were wounded by ground fire as they attempted to evacuate US citizens from the South Sudanese town of Bor.
US citizens and other foreigners were later evacuated from the same area a day later, the State Department said. President Barack Obama told Congress in a letter over the weekend that "approximately 46 additional US military personnel" had been deployed by aircraft on Saturday to evacuate Americans.
Warren said three of the US injured troops, all of whom took gunshot fire to their 'lower extremities' during the attempted evacuation, were expected to be evacuated from Nairobi, where they have been receiving treatment, to a US military medical center in Germany later on Monday.
The fourth service member was not yet stable enough to be moved, Warren said. He was being cared for by a specialized team which arrived in Nairobi over the weekend.
"We expect he'll be evacuated as soon as his condition stabilizes," Warren said. Warren said the troops under US Africa Command were being repositioned for possible missions involving "evacuations and the security associated with an evacuation."
"I'm not prepared to give you too much more detail on what forces are being positioned and where. The last thing we want to do is tip off anyone who would do us harm as to what our intentions are," Warren said.
(Reporting By Phil Stewart and Missy Ryan; editing by Andrew Hay)