US freezes overseas troop movements in virus lockdown

US troops lounge at a military base in Afghanistan. (AP pic)

WASHINGTON: US Defence Secretary Mark Esper ordered a 60-day freeze Wednesday on moves by US troops and civilian defence employees overseas in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

The move stopped the deployment or redeployment of some 90,000 US service members for the next two months.

It also freezes in place the families of service members who travelled overseas with their deployments.

“This measure is taken to aid in further prevention of the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19), to protect US personnel and preserve the operational readiness of our global force,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

The statement said Esper’s order “is not expected to impact” the drawdown of some 4,000 US troops in Afghanistan targeted to be completed within 135 days of the Feb 29 peace pact with the Taliban.

As of Wednesday morning, the Pentagon said there were 435 current and recovered Covid-19 cases among military personnel, civilians, contractors and their families.

One defence department contractor died from the disease.