USS Abraham Lincoln pulls into Bahrain after months in the Arabian Sea
By JOSHUA KARSTEN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 26, 2019
MANAMA, Bahrain — The roughly 5,000 crew members of the USS Abraham Lincoln arrived at the U.S. naval base in Bahrain on Tuesday, after spending more than six months in the Arabian Sea on a deployment shaped by tensions with Iran.
The port visit marks the first break for the crew since May, apart from a couple of stops at the pier in Duqm, Oman.
Lincoln was on a deployment from Naval Station Norfolk, Va., earlier this year when it was ordered ahead of schedule to the Arabian Sea in response to what then-National Security Adviser John Bolton referred to as “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” from Iran.
Last month, the Navy extended the carrier strike group’s mission in the region to allow repairs to be completed on its relief carrier, the USS Harry S. Truman, 2nd Fleet officials told USNI News last week.
The officials confirmed Lincoln will remain on station until Truman can replace it.
Lincoln “continues to provide presence in support of regional maritime security,” 5th Fleet spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Pete Pagano said in an email Thursday. “We are committed to protecting freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce.”
Pagano declined to discuss future operations or the port visit.
Lincoln has operated since May in a small part of the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman.
It transited the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf for the first time last week.
Navy aircraft carriers traditionally sail through the narrow international shipping route when operating in the region, but tensions with Iran had kept the strike group away from the passage.
The USS Boxer was the last large ship to visit Bahrain, with a crew of more than 2,000 sailors and Marines. The July transit made headlines after crew members downed a drone, which U.S. officials said was Iranian.
Weeks beforehand, Iranian forces shot down a U.S. drone that the Navy said was over international waters and Iran said was flying over their territory.
Those incidents came after multiple explosions hit tankers in the Gulf of Oman, which the U.S. blamed on Iranian proxies, and instances of what the U.S., Britain and others have labeled maritime harassment by Iranian forces.
Since then, more U.S. troops have been deployed to the region and an international task force was established to deter Iranian aggression.
The coalition, dubbed CTF Sentinel, includes Albania, Australia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.