US President Joe Biden has ordered the Pentagon to start removing Patriot anti-missile systems, other military hardware, and forces from the Persian Gulf region and could deploy them elsewhere to focus on “leading global competitors, including China and Russia,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
The newspaper said in a report that the US has removed at least three Patriot antimissile batteries from the Gulf region, including one from Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, that had been put in place in recent years to help protect American forces.
“Some capabilities, including an aircraft carrier and surveillance systems, are being diverted from the Middle East to answer military needs elsewhere around the globe,” it says, adding that other reductions are under consideration.
President Biden, it was pointed out, pledged after taking office that he would recalibrate the U.S.-Saudi relationship, taking several tough steps against the kingdom, including freezing the sale of offensive weapons that Riyadh has used in its six-year military intervention in Yemen.
But administration officials also cited in the report as saying they don’t want to destroy the U.S.-Saudi relationship and have said they would seek ways to help Riyadh defend against rocket and missile attacks from militant fighters.
The removal of Patriot batteries, the permanent aircraft-carrier presence, and other military capabilities means that several thousand troops may leave the region over time, the report said.
The Pentagon will begin removing some military capabilities and forces from the Gulf region in the first steps of an effort to realign the U.S. global military footprint away from the Mideast https://t.co/JwiuuSEGVy via @WSJ— Trita Parsi (@tparsi) April 1, 2021
As of late last year, there were about 50,000 U.S. troops in the region, down from a high of about 90,000 at the height of tensions between the Trump administration and Iran about two years ago.
US officials are considering proposals to pull additional military equipment out of the region, including a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence, or THAAD anti-missile system, surveillance drones, and antimissile batteries.
Part of the rationale for moving the equipment is that the Pentagon wants Saudi Arabia to assume more of the burden of defending its own territory, the report said.
Toward that goal, the Pentagon has assembled a ‘tiger team’ of officials to explore ways to help the kingdom protect its facilities and oil installations.
Options under discussion include sales of missile interceptors, expanded intelligence sharing, and additional military training, the report said.