US begins reducing military presence in Gulf region, WSJ reports

The US removed at least three Patriot anti-missile batteries from the Gulf

A US soldier walks at the Qayyarah air base, where US-led troops in 2017 had helped Iraqis plan out the fight against the Islamic State in nearby Mosul in northern Iraq, before a planned US pullout on March 26, 2020. - The 5,200 US troops stationed across Iraqi bases make up the bulk of the coalition force helping hunt down Islamic State group sleeper cells across the country. Around 300 coalition troops left the western Qaim base in mid-March, handing it over in full to Iraqi troops. Today, more troops were set to leave. In the coming weeks, they will also leave the expansive base in Kirkuk. (Photo by AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)

The US has begun reducing its military forces and capabilities in the Gulf region, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

President Biden directed the Pentagon to move resources away from the region as the administration looks to reduce its military presence in the Middle East.

The US has removed at least three Patriot anti-missile batteries from the Gulf region, including one from Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia that had been placed there in recent years, the Journal reported.

Other military reductions include an aircraft carrier and surveillance systems, which will be redirected to other undisclosed regions, and more are being considered.

With the removal of military equipment, a reduction in personnel can also be expected.

As of late 2020, there were 50,000 American troops stationed in the region, down from a high of about 90,000 at the beginning of the year, when tensions between former president Donald Trump and Iran were at an all-time high.

"The Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staff continue to work with Combatant Commanders and the Services to advise the Secretary of Defense on resource allocations for US operations around the world according to priorities, threats and opportunities," Pentagon Spokesperson Commander Jessica L. McNulty told The National.

"Without speaking to specific capabilities, we continue to take a strategic approach to the allocation of forces and routinely make adjustments to account for a wide number of factors.”

The move to reduce America’s military presence in the Gulf comes as attacks from Yemen's Houthi forces against longtime US ally Saudi Arabia have intensified and increasingly targeted civilians.

On Thursday, Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed an attack against Saudi Arabia’s capital city Riyadh, with military spokesman Yahya Saree saying four explosive-laden drones targeted "sensitive and important sites".

Saudi Arabia has not confirmed the attack.

Weeks into his presidency, Mr Biden announced the US would end support for Saudi-led offensive operations in Yemen.

Mr Biden has been reshaping the US role in the Middle East as he looks to detach from the region, which has been a top US military priority for decades.

He has instead focused on dealing with what he considers to be top competitors, like China and Russia, in his foreign policy.

Mr Biden faces a May 1 deadline to decide on whether to pull US troops from Afghanistan, where they have been deployed for nearly two decades.

The US has 2,500 troops in Afghanistan but is looking for a political settlement between Taliban insurgents and the government in Kabul that would allow them to leave.

“It’s going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline just in terms of tactical reasons," Mr Biden has said. "It’s hard to get those troops out."

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