The United States will be without an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf for the first time since 2007 due to scheduled maintenance on the USS Theodore Roosevelt which must be performed at home. The move follows the recent decision to stop the failed program aimed at training non-ISIS Syrian rebels, and indicates an implicit acceptance of the new Russian presence in the region.
Russia has sent troops, ships and aircraft into the region in recent weeks as it launches an all out assault on ISIS and, more interestingly, Syrian rebels opposed to al-Assad regime.
The carrier’s departure has been planned since the summer, but although the USS Harry Truman is supposed to take its place, that may take up to two months. According to a source at the Pentagon, the move is also related to mandatory budget cuts to military spending.
Because Turkey recently granted the U.S. Air Force access to its air bases for attacks on ISIS fighters in the region, the departure of the Roosevelt does not theoretically mean a loss of air power. The Roosevelt contributed only one fifth of the air missions over Syria.
The U.S. and other NATO allies also pulled out Patriot missile systems from Turkey last week, despite protests by Turkish officials. At the same time, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg stated that ground troops were available for deployment should Turkey be further threatened by actors in the region.
Turkey will probably not place much value in any U.S. involvement in these commitments, in light of President Obama’s previous broken promise on a “red line” concerning the civilian bombings and chemical weapons attacks by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
As the U.S. draws down its forces in the Gulf, President Obama announced that he would be committing to an extended presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, following the Taliban’s temporary victory over the city of Kunduz in recent weeks.
There have also been reports that a U.S. carrier will soon be sent within miles of the man-made Chinese islands that are being built in the South China Sea. Considering the recent failures in Syria and Obama’s extreme reluctance to engage with other nation’s militarily, the move is more to influence the American public than rattle swords with China.