Aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and its strike group will remain in the Middle East in the wake of threats from officials in the Iranian government on the one-year anniversary of the U.S. killing of Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani, the Pentagon announced late Sunday.
“Due to the recent threats issued by Iranian leaders against President Trump and other U.S. government officials, I have ordered the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) to halt its routine redeployment,” Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller said in the statement.
“USS Nimitz will now remain on station in the U.S. Central Command area of operations. No one should doubt the resolve of the United States of America.”
On the one-year anniversary of the killing of Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s Quds Forces, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini and a senior military commander both vowed a retaliatory action against the U.S., reported Military.com.
The move from Miller is a reversal of a Thursday statement from the Pentagon in which the acting SECDEF ordered the carrier to end its deployment to U.S. Central Command and return home.
The carrier, its embarked air wing and its escorts have been deployed since June, but due to added precautions due to the COVID-19 pandemic the sailors and Marines assigned to the strike group have been isolated from their families since April.
Before the Thursday order, Nimitz and the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group had been operating off the coast of Somalia to support the repositioning of about 700 U.S. troops to other countries in East Africa. The ARG consists of USS Makin Island (LHD-8) and amphibious transport docks USS Somerset (LPD-25) and USS San Diego (LPD-22), and 2,500 Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit are embarked aboard the three ships. Makin Island also has a squadron of Marine F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters aboard.
Aside from a brief exercise with the Indian Navy and the recent mission off the Horn of Africa, Nimitz has been operating in the Persian Gulf, North Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman since July as part of the near constant regional U.S. carrier presence that began in May of 2019.