Amid the high tension with Iran, the Pentagon has surprisingly ordered USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and its carrier strike group to end their Middle East region deployment and return home.
The move was reportedly a “de-escalatory signal” aimed at avoiding a crisis with less than three weeks left in President Trump’s term. The Pentagon’s decision was made over the objections of top military advisers, according to The New York Times.
“The Secretary appreciates the hard work, commitment, and flexibility of more than 5,000 Sailors and Marines of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group who repeatedly demonstrated operational excellence in providing air support to combat operations against terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan and ensuring maritime security in critical waterways,” Jonathan Rath Hoffman, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, said in a statement on 31st December.
“The Nimitz team provided persistent air cover during the troop drawdowns in Afghanistan and conducted operations and exercises that strengthened enduring partnerships and alliances in the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command areas of responsibility.”
US intelligence officials have seen growing indications that an Iranian attack on American forces is “imminent,” NBC News reported. Iran denies plotting an attack, and even accused its arch-enemy Israel of planning to kill US service members in a setup designed to provoke Trump into responding against Tehran.
The US still has multiple other Navy vessels in the region.
The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group departed San Diego, Calif., in May for a deployment to the Middle East that began in June. The strike group left the Middle East in November for a quick exercise with the Indian Navy and then returned back to U.S. 5th Fleet.
Two weeks ago, the strike group repositioned to the Horn of Africa, sitting off the coast of Somalia to provide assistance as about 700 U.S. military members were relocated from Somalia to other nearby countries in a reshuffling of personnel directed by the Trump administration.