The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that U.S. President Joe Biden had ordered the Pentagon to begin withdrawing some of the forces that Washington had deployed in the Gulf region, especially in Saudi Arabia.
The newspaper stated in an exclusive report that the United States has withdrawn at least three batteries from the Patriot air defense missile systems, noting that one of them was deployed in recent years at the Prince Sultan Airbase in Saudi Arabia in order to protect the American forces present there.
The newspaper quoted U.S. officials as confirming that some reconnaissance systems are being withdrawn from the Middle East in order to meet Washington’s military needs in other regions, adding that additional options are to reduce the American military presence in the area is currently under study.
In particular, officials confirmed to the newspaper that an initiative had been put forward to withdraw the THAAD air defense missile system from the region, but it is still there until now.
The newspaper pointed out that these steps pave a way to withdraw a few thousand American soldiers from the Middle East in the future, noting that the American military presence in the region is currently estimated at 50,000 soldiers, compared with 90,000 at the height of the escalation between the United States and Iran two years ago during the era of former President Donald Trump.
The officials stated to the newspaper that, against the backdrop of these cuts, the Pentagon has allocated a team of experts studying options to support Saudi Arabia, which is currently under intense attacks by groups considered linked to Iran in Yemen and Iraq, led by the Houthis, explaining that the idea is to transfer the main burden of protecting the kingdom’s lands from Washington to Riyadh.
The newspaper mentioned that the steps being studied by experts at the Pentagon include providing Saudi Arabia with some types of defensive weapons, including systems for intercepting missiles, in addition to expanding the exchange of intelligence data, training programs and exchange programs between the military of the two countries.
The officials said that these cuts come within the early stage of the Biden administration’s movement to reduce the American presence in the Middle East, stressing that some of the equipment that will be withdrawn from the region, including reconnaissance drones and anti-missile systems, may be redeployed to other regions, in a measure directed against those who Pentagon officials consider them to be the United States’ greatest adversaries in the world, including China and Russia.