The nuclear-powered USS Nimitz aircraft carrier and its strike group are in transit to the Persian Gulf where it will oversee the Trump-ordered withdrawal of up to 5,000 American troops from the region in the coming weeks and months. It’s part of Trump’s belated efforts to drastically reduce American presence from Iraq and Afghanistan and to bring the troops home.
The carrier group will provide “defensive capabilities” amid the large-scale logistical operation. While it was deployed prior to the dramatic events of the past days which has seen soaring tensions between Iran, Israel and the US over the high profile assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the deployment comes as both Iran and Israel are on ‘high alert’ and a war-footing.
“This action ensures we have sufficient capability available to respond to any threat and to deter any adversary from acting against our troops during the force reduction,” a weekend Pentagon said statement said.
Over the past week the Islamic Republic’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has stepped up its naval drills in the Strait of Hormuz, believed to be a ‘show of strength’ after widespread reports this month that Trump may be mulling preemptive military action against Iran.
Tehran has charged that Israel was behind the Friday assassination of Fakhrizadeh in an effort to draw it into a full-blown war, which would also likely draw in the US.
However, USA Today noted the carrier deployment while coming at a tense time is not responding to any particular threat:
Navy Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the 5th Fleet, said there was no specific threat that led the carrier, its dozens of aircraft and the strike group back to the Persian Gulf.