Less than a month after the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) departed the Persian Gulf to take part in the annual Malabar naval exercises with the Indian Navy, the carrier and its strike group returned to provide “defensive capabilities” during a drawdown of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“This action ensures we have sufficient capability available to respond to any threat and to deter any adversary from acting against our troops during the force reduction,” the Pentagon said in a statement. However, the U.S. Navy’s carrier strike group 11 (CSG 11) return was not triggered by any “threats” after the killing of Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, last week.
Tensions in the region have been seen as extraordinarily high following the assassination of Fakhrizadeh, which Tehran has blamed on the United States and Israel. However, Commander Rebecca Rebarich, a spokesperson for the U.S. Fifth Fleet, told the AFP news agency that the return of CSG 11, under the command of Rear Adm. James A. Kirk, was not related to a specific threat but was part of regional security.
“There were no specific threats that triggered the return of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group,” Rebarich said in a statement. “The return of Nimitz is centered on maintaining CENTCOM’s ability to remain postured and prepared to help preserve regional stability and security.”
The deployment to the Gulf came as President Donald Trump announced about 2,000 troops would be pulled from Afghanistan while another 500 would be pulled from Iraq—leaving approximately 2,500 troops in each country. CSG-11 has been deployed to provide combat support and air cover during the drawdown.
The U.S. Navy flotilla including the Nimitz took part in the joint exercises with India as well as with the navies of Australia and Japan in the Arabian Sea.
“We greatly appreciate the dedication of the crew of the Nimitz, who has been serving with distinction at sea since this summer,” the Pentagon also said via a statement.
USS Nimitz, which is one of the eleven super carriers in operation with the United States Navy, left its home port of Bremerton, Wash. in April after a month of quarantine and testing for the coronavirus with the crew on board the ship at Naval Base Kitsap. The Pentagon hasn’t announced when the ship will return to its home port. The U.S. warship had conducted a port visit in Bahrain from Nov. 4 through 8.
“The sailors and Marines of Nimitz Strike Group remain steadfast in their commitment to the free flow of commerce, freedom of navigation, and our regional maritime partnerships,” Rear Adm. Kirk said in a statement according to USNI News. “We are grateful for the support from the Kingdom of Bahrain for our port call.”
The port visit came after Nimitz had been operating in the Persian Gulf for almost two months, the longest amount of time that a U.S. aircraft carrier had spent in the waters of the Middle East since 2018. USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) had been deployed to the Persian Gulf from December 2017 until late March 2018 as part of the U.S. anti-ISIS effort Operation Inherent Resolve.
In October, the U.S. Navy announced that it was considering an extension to the service lives of the aging Nimitz-class carriers. USS Nimitz was commissioned in May 1975, and it had its refueling and overhaul completed from 1998 to 2001.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.