The US is to withdraw nearly 12,000 troops from Germany in a move that has attracted bipartisan congressional opposition and roiled key allies who see the move as a blow to NATO.
President Donald Trump’s decision to pull thousands of troops will take years to execute and will potentially cost billions of dollars to bring about, according to US defense officials.
The plan to pull US troops from the long-time NATO ally has been met with broad bipartisan opposition amid concerns that it will weaken the US military’s position vis a vis Russia, however the Trump Administration has decided to proceed with the move.
Approximately 11,900 US troops, a mix of Army and Air Force units, will be removed from Germany to meet Trump’s mandated cap of 25,000 US forces in Germany, according to a senior US defense official, a number higher than the figure of 9,500 that was used when the reduction was first announced.
Officials said the discrepancy was due to the fact that following a review it was found that there were slightly more US troops permanently assigned to Germany, about 36,000, than originally planned for.
Of the troops leaving Germany some 5,400 will be “staying in Europe” but the official would not identify the exact locations that they will be moving to, saying only they would stay in countries that have already hosted US troops in some capacity which includes most of the European members of NATO.
The remaining 6,400 forces and their families will be returned to the US and will in time redeploy to Europe on a rotational basis while remaining permanently based on the continent.
Defense officials said this will cost billions of dollars as new military construction will likely be required both in Europe and the US to house the additional troops.
The defense official confirmed that the repositioning will take “months to plan and years to execute,” a timeline first revealed earlier this month by the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sen. Jim Inhofe who had been briefed on the plan.
The timeline suggests that the plan could be reversed should Trump lose the election in November.
Defense officials say that the German Defense Minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, and Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, had been briefed on the planned drawdown as well as key members of Congress.
Defense officials said that Secretary of Defense Mark Esper had directed that the repositioning seek to enhance deterrence against Russia, strengthen NATO, and support families of US service members.
However Trump, who directed the move, said he did so because of Berlin’s failure to meet the NATO target of spending 2% of GDP on defense, spending only about 1.38%.
“One of the only countries that hasn’t agreed to pay what they’re supposed to pay (on NATO) is Germany. So, I said until they pay, we’re removing our soldiers, a number of our soldiers, by about half. Then when we get down to about 25,000, we’ll see where we’re going,” Trump said last month.
Defense officials however said Wednesday that the decision as to where to house the US troops leaving Germany was not influenced by whether the new host country was meeting the two percent target.
While Germany’s national leadership has been largely silent on the troop cuts, local leaders representing the states where US troops are housed recently wrote to members of the US Congress asking them to help reverse the decision.
”We plead for this profound partnership to continue and for US forces to remain at their locations in Europe and Germany,” the leaders of the German states of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse and Bavaria wrote.
“We therefore ask you to support us as we strive not to sever the bond of friendship but to strengthen it, and to secure the U.S. presence in Germany and Europe in the future,” the letter added.
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