By Phil StewartWASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military is taking new steps to protect its troops in the Middle East as concerns mount about attacks by Iran-backed groups, and it is leaving open the possibility of evacuations of military families if needed, officials tell Reuters. A U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, did not specifically say what might trigger the evacuation of U.S. military families, who are deployed to Middle East locations including Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet. Senior Biden administration officials including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin have warned of the risk of major escalation in attacks on American troops in the Middle East and that Iran could seek to widen the Israel-Hamas war. Austin has ordered new air defenses to the Middle East to safeguard troops, including a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. Iranian security officials told Reuters Iran's strategy was for Middle East proxies like Hezbollah to pursue limited strikes on Israeli and U.S. targets but to avoid a major escalation that would draw in Tehran.