In a surprise move, the US is likely to move its only aircraft carrier in the Asia-Pacific to the Gulf to support the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.
According to the VOA, the US has deployed the USS Ronald Reagan at Yokosuka, Japan, for its Pacific operations. If it moves to West Asia, the contested region around the East China Sea and the South China Sea will be left without an aircraft carrier.
Even though the British aircraft carrier strike group—HMS Queen Elizabeth—will reach the region, there is likely to be a gap when the Western powers may not have an aircraft carrier in the region. The British carrier has its own helicopters and jets besides American fighter jets and troops.
For the US military, 2021 has thrown up two areas of interest—the Indo-Pacific owing to China's belligerence against its neighbours and in the SCS, and also the Af-Pak region from where it is withdrawing its troops after nearly two decades. The movement of its strike force from Japan to the Gulf links both these areas of operation.
The Japan-based strike group and its air wing will be deployed to the Gulf region for the first time after the 2003 Iraq invasion.
In March the US had released the Interim National Security Guidance paper, which identified China as "increasingly assertive". The paper, which is also known as US President Joe Biden's vision document, said that the country will have a stronger military presence in the Indo-Pacific and build alliances with like-minded countries.
The report also saw Beijing as "the only competitor potentially capable of combining its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to mount a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system".
With the Biden administration working on the same lines as the Trump administration regarding the pull-out of American and NATO forces from Afghanistan, much progress has happened in the region. Besides Afghanistan, the US is also involved in operations in Syria and Iraq.
Aircraft carrier USS Dwight D Eisenhower, which was on duty in the Gulf, will be supported by USS Ronald Reagan. Though the Pentagon did not make it clear if the USS Eisenhower will also be re-deployed, it is possible that it may undergo routine maintenance or repairs.
However, the Al-Monitor website has said that USS Eisenhower will head home.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby declined to confirm the deployment, saying the Pentagon does not talk about ship movements in advance.