U.S. Central Command said the U.S. Air Force B-52H “Stratofortress” aircrews conducted the mission on “short notice” to “deter aggression and reassure U.S. partners and allies.”
“The ability to quickly move forces into, out of and around the theater to seize, retain and exploit the initiative is key to deterring potential aggression,” said Lt. Gen. Greg Guillot, 9th Air Force commander.
“These missions help bomber aircrews gain familiarity with the region’s airspace and command, and control functions and allow them to integrate with the theater’s U.S. and partner air assets, increasing the combined force’s overall readiness.”
President Trump’s new acting defense secretary Christopher Miller announced Tuesday a drawdown of troops to 2,500 in Afghanistan and 2,500 in Iraq by Jan. 15 of next year. There are roughly 4,500 troops in Afghanistan and 3,000 in Iraq right now.
“In light of these tremendous sacrifices, and with great humility and gratitude to those who came before us, I am formally announcing that we will implement President Trump’s orders to continue our repositioning of forces from those two countries,” Miller said Tuesday.
“This is consistent with our established plans and strategic objectives, supported by the American people, and does not equate to a change in policy or objectives.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Doha, Qatar, Saturday to take part in what could be his last round of negotiations with the Taliban and Afghan government about a peace deal.
Violence in Afghanistan soared this year, as eight people were killed just hours before peace talks were set to begin Saturday when mortars hit a residential area of Kabul.
It is unclear where the B-52H bombers went in the Middle East Saturday, but they left from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.
Minot Air Force Base is the only base in the United States that houses both intercontinental ballistic missiles in underground silos as well as a fleet of bombers also capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
It marks the first B-52 mission to the Middle East in several months. In January, after the U.S. military’s elite Joint Special Operations Command killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike, six B-52 bombers were dispatched to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.