Sizable U.S. Military Deployment in Southwest Asia
May 13, 2019 (EIRNS)—One week after National Security Advisor John Bolton announced that Iran presented a new “threat” to U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf, the U.S. military has assembled a substantial force in the region, but not one that is unusually large. There is nothing unusual about the force deployments that have been announced in the past week, and they join an already substantial permanent presence that the U.S. military has maintained in the region since the 1991 Gulf War.
As for the new deployments, the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and its accompanying task group reportedly arrived in the region after transitting through the Suez Canal on May 9. According to the USNI News, the Lincoln is accompanied by three guided-missile destroyers, the USS Bainbridge, USS Mason and USS Nitze. Other news reports indicate that the Lincoln strike group also includes the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf. The Lincoln is carrying four squadrons of F-18 Hornet fighter jets, as well as various other support aircraft and helicopters.
The bomber deployment that Bolton had announced, consisting of four B-52s, also reportedly arrived at Al Udeid air base in Qatar on May 9. According to arms control expert Hans Kristensen, the deployed B-52s are nuclear-capable, though it doesn’t necessarily follow that they deployed with nuclear weapons.
Additional deployments reported since then include the assault landing ship USS Arlington and a Patriot air defense unit. The USS Arlington is actually part of an amphibious ready group led by the assault ship USS Kearsarge and the landing ship USS Fort McHenry, both of which, until a couple of days ago, were in the Persian Gulf. Together the three ships carry a Marine Expeditionary Unit consisting of about 2,000 Marines, equipped with Osprey tilt rotor aircraft and helicopters. The destroyer USS McFaul and an ammunition ship were also reported passing through the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf last week.
These deployments will add to a long-term U.S. military presence in the region, which includes 13,000 troops that make up U.S. Army Central Command Forward in Kuwait; two giant U.S. airbases at Al Udeid, Qatar, and Al Dhafra in the U.A.E.; and the U.S. Fifth Fleet, headquartered in Bahrain. Besides the bombers, Al Udeid usually hosts one to two dozen KC-135 air refueling tankers, along with intelligence-gathering aircraft, while Al Dhafra is hosting a squadron of U.S. Air Force F-35As which arrived there in April. There are, likely, also drones, F-15Es, and F-16s at the base as well, in addition to eight to ten KC-10s, a well of E-3 AWACS, and other surveillance aircraft.
This picture doesn’t include all of the smaller units and base access that the U.S. military also has elsewhere around the region, including in Oman, Turkey, and Egypt.