The US Navy was planning to participate in the African Sea Lion 2020, with its amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD-5) now redirected to the Middle East.
Rabat – Amid escalated tensions between the US and Iran, the Pentagon has canceled the joint American-Moroccan marine exercise, African Sea Lion 2020, just days before the kick-start planned for January 8 in Agadir.
A defense US official told USNI News, a website specialized in war navy news, that the Pentagon had canceled the annual joint exercise with the Royal Moroccan Navy and redirected
the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD-5) and embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit to the Middle East.
USS Bataan and the embarked Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) are now “conducting routine operations, demonstrating the inherent flexibility of our naval forces,” Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Comer, a U.S. 6th Fleet spokesman told USNI News on Friday, January 3.
“For operational security reasons, we do not discuss future operations. ARGMEUs operate continuously across the globe to provide commanders with a forward-deployed, flexible and responsive sea-based Marine Air-Ground Task Force,” he added.
The US Marines will now join soldiers from the Fort Bagg, N.C.-based 82nd Airborne who deployed following the killing of the Iranian army general Qasem Soleimani alongside Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis on Thursday, January 2.
A US drone attack killed Soleimani near the International airport of Baghdad in Iraq. The US president ordered the attack, believing that Soleimani posed a threat to American military personnel and diplomats in the region.
US officials announced that 3,000 additional troops will be deployed to the Middle East as a security measure.
“Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” according to a Pentagon statement.
In a letter to the UN Security Council, Iranian ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi said that Tehran reserves the right to self-defense under international law.