Pentagon moving carrier from Asia-Pacific to help with troop withdrawal in Afghanistan: report
The USS Ronald Reagan, the only aircraft carrier based in the Asia-Pacific region, will be heading near Afghanistan from its home port of Japan this summer to assist in the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the USS Ronald Reagan is expected to operate near Afghanistan for four months. During this time, the Navy will have no aircraft carrier in the Asia-Pacific region. The Journal noted that the diversion from Eastern Asia conflicts with President Biden’s calls to prioritize the military in the region.
It will mark the first time the USS Ronald Reagan has left the Pacific region since 2015, according to the Journal.
The Pentagon later on Wednesday would not confirm the ship’s movement.
“I’ve seen the press reporting on that.. we don’t talk about potential future operations. We certainly don’t talk about potential ship movements in advance. I don’t really have any decision to speak to about that today,” Defense Department press secretary John Kirby told reporters.
Kirby would only say that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin wants to make sure the head of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission and U.S. Forces−Afghanistan, Army Gen. Austin Miller, “has the right options at his disposal to make sure that the withdrawal from Afghanistan is done in a safe, orderly and deliberate way.”
“Of course we also have a robust presence in the Middle East at large, outside of the Afghanistan effort. So there’s a lot to consider when you’re talking about moving major units,” Kirby added.
The aircraft carrier currently operating in the Middle East region, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, is scheduled to leave by July and return to its home port in Norfolk, Va., the newspaper reported. The carrier has been deployed twice in the past three years and has been operating in the north Arabian Sea since April.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt had been deployed in the South China Sea earlier this year amid rising tensions between China and Taiwan in an effort to promote “freedom of the seas.” The carrier returned to San Diego on Tuesday.
The Journal reported that this carrier move reflects the Navy’s efforts to cover missions with limited available ships.
Adm. Mike Gilday, chief of U.S. naval operations, had said earlier in May he hoped the Biden administration’s recent push for a renewed nuclear deal with Iran would reduce the need for a carrier strike group presence in the Middle East.
Ellen Mitchell contributed to this report, which was updated at 4:51 p.m.