United States withdraws missile defenses in Saudi Arabia after Afghan withdrawal

A satellite photo provided by Planet Labs Inc. shows an area of ​​Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia that has previously seen Patriot missile batteries stationed with a forward high altitude air defense unit at the empty terminal on September 10. 2021. / AP

A satellite photo provided by Planet Labs Inc. shows an area of ​​Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia that has previously seen Patriot missile batteries stationed with a forward high altitude air defense unit at the empty terminal on September 10. 2021. / AP

The United States withdrew its most advanced missile defense system and Patriot batteries from Saudi Arabia in recent weeks, Al Jazeera reported on Saturday.

Satellite photos analyzed by the Associated Press also drew the same conclusion. According to the image seen in late August, some of the batteries have been removed from the area, although the activity and vehicles can still be seen there. But a high-resolution satellite image from Planet Lab taken on Friday showed the battery pads at the site were empty, with no visible activity.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby acknowledged “the redeployment of some air defense means” after receiving questions from the PA. He said the United States maintains a “broad and deep” commitment to its Middle Eastern allies.

“The Department of Defense continues to maintain tens of thousands of forces and a robust position of strength in the Middle East representing some of our most advanced air and sea capabilities, in support of US national interests and regional partnerships. “Kirby said.

In a statement to the PA, the Saudi Defense Ministry called the kingdom’s relations with the United States “strong, long-standing and historic,” while acknowledging the withdrawal of American missile defense systems.

He said the Saudi army “is capable of defending its lands, seas and airspace, and of protecting its people.”

“The redeployment of some of the defense capabilities of the region friendly United States of America is accomplished through a common understanding and realignment of defense strategies as an attribute of operational deployment and readiness,” said the press release.

The redeployment of defenses from Prince Sultan Air Force Base outside Riyadh came as U.S. Gulf Arab allies nervously watched the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, including their last-minute evacuations from the besieged Kabul international airport.

As tens of thousands of US forces remain in the Arabian Peninsula as a counterweight to Iran, Arab Gulf countries worry about America’s future plans as its military perceives a growing threat in Asia that requires these defenses. anti-missiles.

Tensions remain high as negotiations appear to be stalled in Vienna over the failure of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, increasing the risk of future confrontations in the region.

Prince Sultan Air Base, some 115 kilometers southeast of Riyadh, has hosted several thousand US troops since a 2019 missile and drone attack at the heart of the kingdom’s oil production.

(With the contribution of the agencies)

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