Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of the U.S. Central Command, said that as the U.S. reduces its military footprint in the Middle East, competing world powers Russia and China would seek to expand their influence in the region.
“The Middle East writ broadly is an area of intense competition between the great powers. And I think that as we adjust our posture in the region, Russia and China will be looking very closely to see if a vacuum opens that they can exploit,” McKenzie told reporters, according to The Associated Press.
“I think they see the United States shifting posture to look at other parts of the world and they sense there may be an opportunity there,” the general added.
President BidenJoe BidenHarris to 2021 grads: Pandemic prepared you for ‘pretty much anything’ Senate Armed Services chair throws support behind changing roles of military commanders in sexual assault prosecutions Biden adviser says reducing red meat isn’t sole climate change solution MORE announced in Aril that he had ordered a full withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The withdrawal is expected to be completed by Sept. 11. The Pentagon announced last week that a fifth of the withdrawal had been completed.
After meeting with Saudi officials, McKenzie said Sunday that one area that Russia and China could exploit in the absence of the U.S. could be arms sales. According to McKenzie, Russia is willing to sell air defense systems to anyone and China has long-term goals of establishing military bases in the area.
The AP notes the Biden administration sees China’s expanding influence in East Asia as the U.S.’s main security concern but military leaders like McKenzie say China’s influence is not limited to that one region.
“I agree completely that China needs to be the pacing threat we orient on,” McKenzie told AP and ABC News reporters. “At the same time, we are a global power and we need to have a global outlook. And that means that you have the ability to consider the globe as a whole.”
A Hill-HarrisX poll conducted in April found that an overwhelming majority of people approved of the withdrawal. However some have criticized the move as having the potential to result in the Taliban retaking control in the region.
Former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTop general: Russia, China will look to expand influence in Middle East as US pulls back We have a chance to halt climate change if we stop destroying carbon sinks and cut methane Trump won’t move on, but most Americans want to MORE earlier in May warned there could be “huge consequences” of pulling troops out of Afghanistan. Apart from a potential takeover by the Taliban, Clinton told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, “There will also be, I fear, a huge refugee outflow.”