The Pentagon has ordered a redeployment of the USS Ronald Reagan, its only aircraft carrier in the Asia-Pacific region, so that it can help with the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, The Wall Street Journal has reported, citing anonymous defence officials. The carrier has reportedly left its homeport in Japan and will presumably be moving to the Arabian Sea this summer, the media reported.
The WSJ's sources said the carrier will spend four months carrying out its new assignment, filling in the spot of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, which is currently deployed in the Middle East, but is set to return home by July. Apparently the USS Ronald Reagan's new deployment will end by 11 September – the date that US President Joe Biden had set as the deadline for the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The move to pull troops out comes as the 20th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan looms. Last year, US President Donald Trump signed a peace agreement with the Taliban*, under which the group pledged to prevent the country from turning into a base for Al-Qaeda and to engage in negotiations with Kabul in exchange for a US military withdrawal.
The latter was initially due to be completed by 1 May, but the Biden administration violated the deadline without negotiating a new date with the Taliban*. Instead, Washington set a new date unilaterally, despite the criticism from the group.
Four Months Without US 'Provocations'?
For the duration of the USS Ronald Reagan’s deployment in the Arabian Sea, the Asia-Pacific region, including the South China Sea and Strait of Taiwan, will apparently not see US carriers lead “freedom of navigation” missions. However, despite the absence of carriers to replace the USS Ronald Reagan, the Pentagon may send destroyers and other warships to patrol the waters.
Such patrols have long prompted displeasure in Beijing. China sees these areas as its territorial waters and condemns such transits by the American Navy as "provocations". Beijing has repeatedly warned that the presence of US warships in the South China Sea could one day lead to an accident or armed confrontation. Washington has ignored China's objections.
*The Taliban is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia