The Navy is poised to send aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan to the Middle East this summer to support the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, according to a new report.
The Reagan will move from the Asia-Pacific region to U.S. 5th Fleet, and is expected to remain in U.S. Central Command’s region for up to four months, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The move was made per the request of Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of CENTCOM, who asked for a carrier to take over for the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, which is currently deployed in the region, unnamed defense officials told the Journal.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin signed off on the request, and is anticipated to reexamine the issue in the “coming days,” the Journal reports.
The Eisenhower is expected to depart CENTCOM’s area of operations in July and arrive in Norfolk, the Journal reports. Citing unnamed defense officials, the report said that the carrier is unable to operate safely if it exceeds the July timeframe, given that the carrier was deployed in 2020 and subsequently deployed again in February 2021.
In March, the Navy announced Ike and its carrier strike group had started conducting flight operations against the Islamic State.
The Navy’s 5th Fleet did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Navy Times regarding the nature of the support the Reagan would provide.
Last week, the Navy said that the Reagan was departing its home port of Yokosuka, Japan, to “support security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region” as part of a “routine at-sea period.”
“Ronald Reagan’s flexible presence is a key element in helping assure our regional allies and partners that the United States remains committed to ensuring freedom of the seas,” Capt. Fred Goldhammer, commanding officer of Ronald Reagan, said in a Navy news release. “Across the globe, the crew aboard Ronald Reagan seeks to preserve ‘peace through strength’ and is ready to answer the call.”
President Joe Biden announced in April that “it’s time to end America’s longest war,” and that U.S. troops would depart Afghanistan by Sept. 11 this year.
“We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan, hoping to create ideal conditions for the withdrawal, and expecting a different result,” Biden said April 14.
Since then, CENTCOM has gotten the ball rolling in pulling out troops, and estimated that the U.S. had completed between 16 to 25 percent of the withdrawal process as of Tuesday.
“The DoD has retrograded the equivalent of approximately 160 C-17 loads of material out of Afghanistan and have turned over more than 10,000 pieces of equipment to the Defense Logistics Agency for disposition,” CENTCOM said in the Tuesday news release. “Also, the U.S. has officially handed over five facilities to the Afghan Ministry of Defense.”