Feb. 2 (UPI) -- The USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is moving into the U.S. Indo-Pacific region after 270 days in the Central Command area of responsibility, the Pentagon announced Tuesday.
"We want to thank all the men and women aboard the ships in that strike crew and the squadrons who supported Central Command now for more than 270 days, ensuring our national security and deterring conflict in a very critical region of the world," Pentagon press secretary John F. Kirby said.
The carrier USS Nimitz, homeported in Bremerton, Wash., and is now in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility.
The vessel's departure means there is no U.S. carrier operating in the Central Command area of operations, which includes the Middle East, including Egypt in Africa, and Central Asia and parts of South Asia.
Kirby said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin feels America has "a robust presence in the Middle East," with U.S. service members based in many nations in the Persian Gulf.
"Every decision that we make with military forces - air, ground or naval - and certainly, decisions that you make with respect to a capital asset, like an aircraft carrier and its associated, supporting Strike Group is a decision driven by a frank assessment of the threats in the area, and also a frank consideration of the capabilities themselves," Kirby said. "So, absolutely, the secretary was mindful of the larger geostrategic picture when he approved the movement of the Carrier Strike Group from the Central Command area responsibility."
At the end of December the Nimitz headed toward its home port following a 10-month deployment that most recently included a stop off the coast of Somalia to provide support as U.S. troops relocated from Somalia to other East African areas.
But in early January the Pentagon announced that the vessel 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.