Defense Secretary Mark Esper Announces U.S. Withdrawal of 12,000 Troops from Germany

Date: 2020-07-29 17:55:38

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Spurred on by President Donald Trump’s demand to pull troops out of Germany, the U.S. will bring about 6,400 forces home and shift about 5,600 to other countries in Europe, U.S. defense leaders said Wednesday, detailing a Pentagon plan that will cost billions of dollars and take years to complete.

The decision fulfills Trump’s announced desire to withdraw troops from Germany, largely due to its failure to spend enough on defense. A number of forces will go to Italy, and a major move would shift U.S. European Command and Special Operations Command Europe from Stuttgart, Germany, to Belgium.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that some moves will begin in months and will leave about 24,000 troops in Germany. He said that while the decision was “accelerated” by Trump’s orders, the moves also promote larger strategic goals to deter Russia, reassure European allies and shift forces further east into the Black Sea and Baltic regions.

Trump, however, reasserted his very narrow reason Wednesday morning, telling reporters, “we’re reducing the force because they’re not paying their bills. It’s very simple. They’re delinquent.” He added that he might rethink the decision to pull troops out of Germany “if they start paying their bills.”

Esper said the moves will cost in the “single digit” billions of dollars.

The announcement is closely tied to the plan to increase the U.S. troop presence in Poland, a shift long desired by Warsaw and Polish President Andrzej Duda. Officials said the moves will require construction at bases in the U.S. to accommodate the additional forces. They said that in the future other troops would rotate in and out of Europe.

Members of Trump’s own political party have criticized the troop move as a gift to Russia and a threat to U.S. national security.

Twenty-two Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee fired back with a letter to Trump saying a reduced U.S. commitment to Europe’s defense would encourage Russian aggression and opportunism.

It’s also unclear if the plan would survive if Trump is not reelected in November.

Germany is a hub for U.S. operations in the Middle East and Africa. The decision to keep nearly half the forces in Europe is a clear move by the Pentagon to assuage allies by avoiding the complete withdrawal of 12,000 troops out of the region. And by spreading forces into the east, it sends a message to Russia that the U.S. is not reducing its commitment to the region and remains ready to protect Eastern Europe from any Moscow aggression.

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