The Pentagon on Wednesday night issued a broad “stop movement” order that will affect tens of thousands of U.S. troops around the world as the military tries to limit the spread of the coronavirus through the ranks.
In a statement, the Pentagon said that Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s new 60-day order comes on top of existing protocols limiting domestic and overseas travel for U.S. personnel stationed at home. The new policy will limit the movement of troops, their families and Defense Department civilian personnel stationed overseas.
The order represents a dramatic shift for the U.S. military in its fight to contain the coronavirus pandemic, and Wednesday’s announcement could have major impacts on American military personnel in the Middle East, the Pacific, Africa, and other key regions across the globe.
“Building upon previously enacted movement restrictions governing foreign travel, permanent change of station moves, temporary duty and personal leave, this stop movement order will also impact exercises, deployments, redeployments and other global force management activities,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “Approximately 90,000 service members slated to deploy or redeploy over the next 60 days will likely be impacted by this stop movement order.”
There are several exceptions built into the new policy, such as allowing travel for a service member to receive medical treatment.
Despite the seemingly strict order, Pentagon officials said it’s not likely to affect the U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan. The Trump administration’s recent peace deal with the Taliban requires the U.S. to cut its troop presence in the country from roughly 12,000 to 8,600 over the next several months.