U.S. Navy’s Only Aircraft Carrier in Asia-Pacific Region to be Redeployed to Assist Afghan Withdrawal

The Wall Street Journal reported May 26 that the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), the only U.S. aircraft carrier based in the Asia-Pacific region, will withdraw from a Japanese port and sail to Afghanistan, where it is expected to stay for about four months to assist in the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

This will be the first time since 2015 that the aircraft carrier USS Reagan has left the Asia-Pacific region, and the U.S. Navy will not have an aircraft carrier deployed in the Asia-Pacific region during the period when the Reagan is helping to withdraw troops. Critics say this runs counter to President Biden’s call to prioritize military strategy in the Indo-Pacific region.

U.S. defense officials say the Navy will be without a carrier presence in the Asia-Pacific region for at least part of the time that the Reagan is gone. The U.S. Seventh Fleet based in Japan has dozens of other ships and aircraft, but the redeployment of its only available carrier represents a major shift away from Asia, which Biden said is a priority area of concern for the U.S. military.

Biden last month unveiled plans to pull all U.S. and coalition forces out of Afghanistan by the anniversary of Sept. 11 this year. U.S. officials said at the time that they would keep an aircraft carrier and its strike group in the region to provide security while troops are withdrawn from Afghanistan.

The carrier USS Eisenhower (CVN-69), which is currently operating in the area, must leave by July and return to its home port in Norfolk, Va. U.S. Department of Defense officials said the Eisenhower carrier has deployed twice in the past 36 months and cannot safely extend its deployment any longer. “The Eisenhower carrier has been operating in the northern Arabian Sea since April.

The Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) strike group departed for the Indo-Pacific on May 22 for its first ocean deployment. During the 28-week deployment, the carrier strike group will visit India, Singapore, South Korea, Japan and 40 other countries, participating in more than 70 training sessions, including participation in counter-terrorism operations in Iraq and Syria, alongside French aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean, and joint military exercises with the Japanese Self-Defense Forces. Accompanied by a U.S. Navy destroyer and a Dutch frigate, and the U.S. Marine Corps F-35B fighter jets.