The Biden administration is sharply reducing the number of U.S. antimissile systems in the Middle East in a major realignment of its military footprint there as it focuses the armed services on challenges from China and Russia, administration officials said.
The U.S. moved Patriot antimissile systems to Iraq after Iran in January 2020 fired missiles at the Al Asad base in western Iraq, where U.S. troops are stationed.
U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. forces in the Middle East and Afghanistan, declined to comment on the changes.
Former officials who took part in decisions to increase U.S. defenses in the region said that circumstances have since changed, both in the Middle East and beyond.
The move marks the second time this year the U.S. has removed Patriot antimissile batteries from the Middle East.
This spring, the U.S. military removed at least three Patriot missiles from the Saudi Arabia and had considered taking out a Thaad. Officials said the withdrawal could be seen by Russia and China, who are expanding their military and economic influence in the Middle East, as an opportunity to increase their aims.
Defense officials point to a mosaic of U.S. involvement in the region, including foreign military sales, security cooperation, joint military exercises and maintaining U.S. ground troops.