U.S. commanders seek approval for aircraft carrier near Afghanistan during withdrawal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Top U.S. military commanders are seeking Pentagon approval to deploy an aircraft carrier near landlocked Afghanistan to help protect troops during their withdrawal from the country in coming months, a U.S. official said on Wednesday.

President Joe Biden announced last week that the United States will withdraw its remaining 2,500 troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the al Qaeda attacks that triggered America's longest war.

It is common for the United States military to use aircraft carriers or other warships to protect troops during sensitive missions like troop withdrawals. The Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier is currently in the Middle East.

Last year the United States deployed an aircraft carrier off the coast of Somalia during the drawdown from the country.

The U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had not yet approved the request, but was expected to decide in the coming days.

The U.S. Central Command declined comment

Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, told lawmakers earlier this week that the military would protect troops during the withdrawal.

The Pentagon has said the number of troops in Afghanistan could temporarily increase to help with the withdrawal, something that is common for the military.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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