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Strike group headed to Central Command early

WASHINGTON – The USS Stennis strike group will deploy to the Central Command area of responsibility four months early, just six months after returning from its previous deployment in the region.

Marine Gen. James Mattis, commander of U.S. Central Command, asked to move up the strike group’s deployment based on “a range of factors,” and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta approved it late last week, said Pentagon spokesman George Little.

Without the change, there would have been a few months during which only one strike group was deployed to the Middle East. This decision virtually eliminates that gap, Little said.

Keeping two strike groups in the Arabian Sea area is “in keeping with our long-standing commitment to the region,” Little said, though he refused to name any specific factors that may have spurred the request.

“This is about a wide range of U.S. security interests in the region. We’re always mindful of the challenges posed by Iran. Let me be very clear: This is not a decision that is based solely on the challenges posed by Iran,” Little said. “This is not about any one particular country or one particular threat.”

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