Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin instructed the commander of US Central Command, which oversees the region, to withdraw troops this summer.
Some of the military capabilities and platforms are being returned to the United States for much-needed maintenance and repair, Pentagon spokeswoman Cmdr said. Jessica McNulty, while other assets are being reallocated to other regions.
“This decision was made in close consultation with the host countries and with a clear focus on maintaining our ability to meet our security obligations. The point is to preserve some of our high-demand, sparse assets so that they can be used for future contingency requirements, “McNulty said in a statement, adding that the Pentagon would not disclose where or when the military funds would go .
The withdrawal of forces from the Middle East would primarily affect these and other air defense installations, the statement said, including Patriot missile batteries. The US had deployed Patriot missiles in Saudi Arabia and Iraq to counter the threat posed by Iran and its proxies in the region, including Iraq and Yemen. Patriot missiles are effective at intercepting ballistic missiles, including the type of short-range missiles that have been launched from Yemen in recent years. But the missiles are far less effective at detecting and intercepting drones and cruise missiles flying at low altitudes.
The withdrawal of armed forces from Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries is part of a wider withdrawal in the region. The US will complete the withdrawal of all forces from Afghanistan before the September 11 deadline. Less than 1,500 soldiers remain in the country. Under the Trump administration, the number of US soldiers in Iraq was reduced to 2,500.
The change reflects a major shift within the Department of Defense to focus its efforts on countering China and Russia as future threats and turning away from the wars of the past in the Middle East.
Austin nears completing a global U.S. Forces review. The review is based on the assessment that China is the “challenge” for the US military. The Pentagon’s China Task Force recently completed its work and presented its recommendations that will influence US strategy, including a global stance review.
“These initiatives, some of which will remain secret, are designed to focus department processes and procedures and better help department heads contribute to the overall government efforts to meet China’s challenge,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said at a press conference last week.