As Gaza war rages, U.S. military footprint expands across Middle East

Lt. Col. Jeremy Anderson tilted up the nose of his U.S. Air Force C-130 and tipped 16 pallets of emergency food aid out of the cargo bay and into the sky above northern Gaza.

Thousands of miles away, off the coast of Yemen, U.S. fighter jets and attack helicopters roared off the flight deck of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, often just minutes apart, to combat Houthi fighters attacking ships in and around the Red Sea.

In both places, U.S. service members said their missions were unexpected, changing as the White House has moved rapidly to contain wider fallout from the Israel-Gaza war. But now, along with a U.S. Army crew on its way to Gaza to build a floating pier, they are firmly part of the U.S. military’s expanding footprint in the Middle East. It’s a region President Biden had hoped to de-emphasize — and one where American involvement has often been devastating and costly.