The US Department of Defense announced, on Friday, that it had begun reducing its air defense systems in the Middle East, after it had worked to strengthen them in 2019 and 2020 against the backdrop of tensions with Iran, confirming information reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Pentagon spokeswoman Jessica McNulty said in a statement that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “has ordered that this summer some forces and capabilities be withdrawn from the area,” noting that it is “primarily air defense equipment.”
“Some of this equipment will be returned to the United States for maintenance and repairs that are now absolutely necessary, and some will be relocated to other regions,” she added.
The spokeswoman did not say whether the equipment would be redeployed. In the Indo-Pacific region, where the Pentagon wants to focus its efforts in the face of the rising influence of China, saying, “We will not give details.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, in early June, the Pentagon began withdrawing eight anti-missile batteries. From Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, in addition to the THAAD anti-missile shield that was deployed in Saudi Arabia.
Each anti-missile battery requires hundreds of soldiers. The withdrawal of those batteries means the departure of thousands of American soldiers from the region.
The spokeswoman continued, “We maintain a strong military presence in the region, commensurate with the threat, and we are confident that these changes will not affect our national security interests.” “We also maintain the flexibility to quickly return forces to the Middle East if needed,” McNulty said. “The Department of Defense maintains tens of thousands of troops in the Middle East, representing some of our most advanced air and naval capabilities to support interests.”
The United States is withdrawing all of its forces from Afghanistan, and has reduced its military force in Iraq to 2,500 last year.
Patriot batteries have been sent in Several reinforcements to the region after the killing of the commander of the Quds Force in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Major General Qassem Soleimani, in an American strike in January 2020.
The THAAD system was deployed in Saudi Arabia after air strikes targeting two strategic oil sites In the kingdom, Tehran was accused of being behind it.