RIYADH (Dispatches) – The Biden administration is withdrawing Patriot missile batteries from four Middle East countries as the US. .reduces its military footprint in the region, a U.S. news outlet reported on Friday.
The Pentagon is pulling about eight Patriot batteries from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan, as well as a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system from Saudi Arabia that had been deployed by the previous Trump administration, the Wall Street Journal reported citing unnamed U.S. officials.
The redeployment includes hundreds of U.S. troops who operate the systems and began earlier this month following a June 2 phone call in which U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin informed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of the shift, according to the Journal.
Some analysts believe Washington is reducing military presence in the region to increase the focus of its military forces on China and Russia.
The U.S. intensified its military presence in the Middle East about two years ago amid tensions with Iran. Part of the military hardware was deployed in September 2019 to Saudi Arabia after a series of attacks on Saudi oil facilities.
The Journal report noted that the Pentagon decision shows that Washington now believes that the risk of escalating hostilities between the U.S. and Iran has decreased.
“What you’re seeing is a realignment of resources with strategic priorities,” said a senior U.S. military official.
“We still maintain tens of thousands of forces in the region, we still have forces in Iraq and Syria, those forces aren’t leaving. We still have our bases in the countries of our Persian Gulf partners, they aren’t shutting down, there is still substantial presence, substantial posture in the region,” the official added.
However, a White House official said that some personnel and equipment from Afghanistan are being redeployed to the Middle East to address some of the threats in the region.
The U.S. invaded and occupied Afghanistan in 2001, claiming that the Taliban were harboring al-Qaeda. The invasion removed the Taliban regime from power but prompted widespread militancy and insecurity across the country. The war has taken countless lives, mostly of Afghan civilians.