U.S. sends more firepower to Middle East as troops withdraw from Afghanistan

Key Points
  • The Pentagon has deployed six B-52 Stratofortress bombers to the U.S. Central Command region, the combatant command that oversees America's military operations in the Middle East.
  • In addition, the Pentagon has also extended the deployment of a U.S. Navy carrier strike group in the region.
  • Last month, Biden announced a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, ending America's longest war.
A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle piloted by a member of the 494th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron takes off from Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, in support of regional security operations, April 30, 2021.
Staff Sgt. Zade Vadnais | U.S. Air Force photo

WASHINGTON – The Pentagon has ramped up its military assets in the Middle East as U.S. and NATO coalition forces begin the colossal task of withdrawing from Afghanistan.

This week, two more U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers arrived at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, bringing the total number of B-52s on standby to respond to a Taliban attack to six.

"We have made it exceedingly clear that protecting our forces and the forces of our allies and partners as they too withdraw is a priority, it's a main priority," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Wednesday.

"We have made plans to introduce additional ground force capabilities to, again, make sure that this is safe and orderly," Kirby added. The Pentagon also extended the deployment of a U.S. Navy carrier strike group in the region and deployed a dozen F-18 fighter jets to provide additional support.

Kirby has previously said that U.S. Central Command, the combatant command that oversees American operations in the Middle East, will continue to assess the need for additional military capabilities as the departure of U.S. and coalition forces proceeds.

A B-52H Stratofortress aircraft assigned to the 5th Bomb Wing, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, arrives May 4, 2021, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.
Staff Sgt. Greg Erwin | U.S. Air Force photo

"The President has decided to end America's involvement in our longest war and we're going to do just that. And so far, less than one week in, the drawdown is going according to plan," Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday.

"Our focus is on making sure that we can retrograde our resources, our troops, our allies in a safe and orderly and responsible fashion," Austin said, adding that in the future the Defense Department, hopeful of congressional support, plans to provide financial aid to Afghan forces.

Last week, the White House confirmed that U.S. troops had begun the withdrawal process from Afghanistan and that the Pentagon proactively deployed additional troops and military equipment to protect forces in the region.

"Potential adversaries should know that if they attack us in our withdrawal, we will defend ourselves, [and] our partners, with all the tools at our disposal," White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters traveling on Air Force One.

"While these actions will initially result in increased forces levels, we remain committed to having all U.S. military personnel out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021," she said, adding that the Biden administration is intent on a "safe and responsible" exit from the war-torn country.

Aircrew assigned to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, carry their gear into a C-17 Globemaster III assigned to Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, April 27, 2021.
Staff Sgt. Kylee Gardner | U.S. Air Force photo

In April, Biden announced a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, ending America's longest war.

The removal of approximately 3,000 U.S. service members coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which spurred America's entry into lengthy wars in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Biden's withdrawal timeline breaks with a proposed deadline brokered last year by the Trump administration with the Taliban. According to that deal, all foreign forces would have had to leave Afghanistan by May 1.

Since Biden's decision to exit the country, the U.S. has removed the equivalent of approximately 60 C-17 Globemaster loads of material out of Afghanistan, according to an update from Central Command. More than 1,300 pieces of equipment, which will not be left to the Afghan military, have also been handed over to the Defense Logistics Agency for destruction.

The U.S. has also officially handed over one facility to the Afghan military. So far, Central Command estimates that the U.S. has completed between 2% and 6% of the withdrawal process.

President Biden on his plans for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan