US removes advanced missile defense system from Saudi Arabia: AP
The United States has withdrawn some of its defense missiles from Saudi Arabia amid ongoing attacks levied against the country by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthis, The Associated Press reported.
The wire service analyzed satellite footage from Plant Labs Inc., which showed that the Prince Sultan Air Base previously had a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense unit and a missile defense system in addition to Patriot missile batteries. Several batteries were no longer at the air base, according to footage taken near the end of August and reviewed by the AP.
The news outlet noted that the missile system and batteries appeared to be gone after analyzing photos taken on Friday.
Following inquiries from the AP, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby conceded that “certain air defense assets” had been redeployed.
“The Defense Department continues to maintain tens of thousands of forces and a robust force posture in the Middle East representing some of our most advanced air power and maritime capabilities, in support of U.S. national interests and our regional partnerships,” Kirby told the AP.
The Hill has reached out to U.S. Central Command for comment.
Earlier this year, the Pentagon said that “certain forces and capabilities” would be pulled out of the Middle East.
“The secretary of Defense directed the commander of U.S. Central Command to remove from the region this summer certain forces and capabilities, primarily air defense assets,” Pentagon spokeswoman Cmdr. Jessica McNulty said in a statement.
McNulty explained that the move was made in “close coordination with host nations” and that it was “about maintaining some of our high demand, low density assets so they are ready for future requirements in the event of a contingency.”
Saudi Arabia’s defense ministry also conceded in a statement to the AP that defense missiles had been removed but maintained the move was done through a “common understanding and realignment of defense strategies.”
“The redeployment of some defense capabilities of the friendly United States of America from the region is carried out through common understanding and realignment of defense strategies as an attribute of operational deployment and disposition,” the ministry said in its statement.