Third U.S. carrier group in Gulf replaces other two; No U.S. 'change in commitment'
WASHINGTON — The United States has pledged to reduce its naval
presence in the Gulf but officials said the rotation did not represent a change in strategy.
Officials said the Defense Department plans to remove two carrier strike
groups from the Gulf over the next two weeks. They said this would leave one
carrier group by August.
"This change in carrier presence does not reflect a change in commitment
or concern for the region," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said on July
12. "Carrier presence is but one means by which the U.S. engages in the
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In mid-July, the U.S. Fifth Fleet maintained as many as three carrier
strike groups in the Gulf. This included the return of the USS Enterprise,
the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier that was last in the region in November
2006, Middle East Newsline reported.
In August, officials said, the USS Enterprise would represent the sole
carrier strike group in the Gulf. They said the redeployment of the two
other groups did not reflect a change in U.S. security policy.
In January 2007, Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered the deployment
of a second aircraft carrier group in the Gulf near the Iranian coast. The
two strike groups held exercises in the Straits of Hormuz and off the coast
of Iran in what was regarded as a show of force to assure Gulf Arab allies
of the United States.
Officials said the U.S. Navy could no longer maintain such a huge force
in the Gulf. They said rotation and maintenance schedules would reduce the
naval presence to one strike group and remove most of those ships by 2008.
For his part, Whitman would not discuss deployment timetables.
"The removal of the strike groups is routine and reflects a rotation
schedule drafted nearly a year ago," an official said.