America’s Lone Carrier In Asia-Pacific Will Depart Region For Afghan Troop Withdrawal
Currently the sole US aircraft carrier based out of the Asian-Pacific, specifically with a home port in Yokosuka, Japan, is the USS Ronald Reagan – but it’s now set to depart the region for the first time in years in preparation for the complete withdrawal of US troops in Afghanistan.
Pentagon officials told The Wall Street Journal the new carrier mission will see the Reagan depart Asian-Pacific waters this summer in support of ensuring a safe US troop exit from Afghanistan by the time of Biden’s Sept. 11 deadline. There’s growing concern that given Americans are now staying well past the previously agreed upon May 1st exit (based on the prior deal under the Trump White House), departing soldiers could face severe Taliban attacks, a scenario which is more likely the longer they stay. But now Congressional hawks worry about the glaring “gap” to be created should ongoing tensions with China escalate.
The carrier presence is expected to assist in thwarting any such attacks via air operations or other missions which require calling in major firepower.
Lack of a carrier presence near the South and East China seas could (perhaps as an inadvertent byproduct ) actually help to cool continually rising tensions with China – hawks inevitably sounding the “alarm” notwithstanding – following over a dozen contentious sail-throughs of warships in the Taiwan Strait and waters claimed by Beijing, such as the recent Paracel island incident.
“While it is away, the Navy will go without an aircraft carrier presence in the Asia-Pacific region for at least part of that time, the officials said,” WSJ describes. This strongly suggests another carrier may be later called upon to enter the waters.
“The U.S. Seventh Fleet, based in Japan, has dozens of other ships and aircraft, but the redeployment of its only available aircraft carrier represents a significant diversion away from Asia, which President Biden has called a priority for the military,” WSJ continues. The current carrier operating in the Middle East, which has been active in the north Arabian sea since last month, is the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower – but it’s scheduled to return to port in Virginia in July.
Already on Thursday this is sparking controversy over the largest navy in the world “not having enough ships”…
Senate Armed Services Comm top Republican @JimInhofe worries abt reported redeployment of #USSRonaldReagan from @INDOPACOM to help w/ #Afghanistan withdrawal@SecDef “should not have to choose btw providing force protection & keeping an aircraft carrier in the priority theater” pic.twitter.com/BaDhAApCxe
— Jeff Seldin (@jseldin) May 27, 2021
This appears part of US Central Command commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie’s promise to the Senate Armed Services Committee made last month wherein he stated, “We will bring additional resources in [to the region] in order to protect the force as it comes out” of Afghanistan, which is by far America’s longest running war. “That’s normal in any kind of disengagement operation, and I don’t want to go into the detail of those operations right now, but we will have additional capabilities and I’m confident that we and our coalition partners will be able to extract ourselves,” McKenzie said.
And Rabobank comments on the matter: “…at a time of heightened tensions around the South China Sea, due to the US leaving Afghanistan in July–opening up USD1-3trn in mineral resources for anyone brave enough to dive in–the US Navy is shifting the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan to help with the logistics. For the first time in a long time, the US has no aircraft carrier in the Pacific. The symbolism is clear: and it leaves some wondering what might happen if push comes to shove.”
The US has further of late reportedly beefed up its bomber presence in the Gulf region, also as the major logistical feet of pulling out a 20-year build-up of equipment and military hardware continues.