Navy Carrier Reagan Will Head to Middle East to Cover Afghan Withdrawal: Report

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The Nimitz class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.
The Nimitz class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan conducts routine operations in the Philippine Sea, May 30, 2020. (U.S. Navy/Ltjg. Samuel Hardgrove)

The United States is preparing to send the carrier Ronald Reagan to the Middle East this summer to help support the Afghanistan withdrawal, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

The Pentagon plans to send the Reagan from its homeport in Japan to Afghanistan this summer, where it will stay for as many as four months, the Journal reported, citing unnamed defense officials.

The Navy declined to comment on the Journal's report, and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to Military.com inquiries.

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The Reagan will replace the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, which is currently in the Middle East, the Journal reported. Last month, shortly after the White House announced plans to leave Afghanistan by Sept. 11 or earlier, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved an extension of the Eisenhower's stay in the Middle East.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in April that the Eisenhower's extension, as well as the deployment to the region of more B-52H Stratofortress bombers, was approved in case the Taliban decides to attack U.S. forces as they withdraw.

"It would be foolhardy and imprudent not to assume that there could be resistance and opposition to the drawdown by the Taliban, given their staunch rhetoric," Kirby said then. "In light of that, we're going to make this a safe, orderly and deliberate, responsible withdrawal, where force protection is at a premium."

The Journal reported that the Eisenhower must leave the Middle East to return to Norfolk, Virginia, by July, because its deployment cannot be safely extended further.

Defense officials told the Journal that the Reagan's deployment to the Middle East will leave the U.S. Navy with no aircraft carrier in the Asia-Pacific region, at least temporarily.

-- Stephen Losey can be reached at stephen.losey@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StephenLosey.

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