The United States has pulled the USS Theodore Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier that has been central in the fight against the Islamic State, from the Persian Gulf, military officials said Thursday.
NBC News reported that the U.S. Navy now, for the first time since 2007, has no aircraft carrier in the sea. The aircraft carrier was taken out late Thursday so that it can undergo maintenance, but its temporary removal is also part of budget cuts.
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The nuclear-powered USS Theodore Roosevelt, which houses approximately 5,000 troops and 65 combat planes, has played a large role in the Obama administration bomb campaign against Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIL or ISIS) since its conception in 2014.
Military officials previously warned of the aircraft carrier’s removal and its negative impact on U.S. capabilities in the region.
"Without that carrier, there will be a detriment to our capability there," Adm. John Richardson, currently the chief of Naval Operations, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in July. While the USS Harry S. Truman will likely replace the carrier, it could be up to two months before that happens.
The removal comes just as the Obama administration on Friday ended its $500 million Pentagon program to train and arm Syrian rebels fighting IS in an acknowledgement of its failure.
At the same time, Russia has been boosting its military activity in the region over the last few weeks, sending military equipment and troops to Syria and starting to launch airstrikes in the country. Russia is also launching cruise missiles from ships in the Caspian Sea at targets in Syria and allegedly putting "volunteer" forces on the ground in the country.
Moscow has insisted that the goal of its military intervention in Syria is to help the Bashar al-Assad regime combat the Islamic State, but most of its airstrikes have targeted areas not controlled by the terrorist group. In fact, U.S. officials believe that Russia is deliberately targeting CIA-backed Syrian rebels with airstrikes in a direct challenge to the Obama administration Syria policy.