The United States will slash its military presence in Germany by 11,900 troops, relocating some to Italy and Belgium in a major shift of Washington's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation assets, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced Wednesday. US officials said that some moves would begin in months and would likely see air and ground forces shifting to countries that already have an American troop presence. The move is set to be the largest shake-up of troops in Germany since the Cold War.
Defense officials said that Secretary of Defense Mark Esper had directed that the repositioning seek to enhance deterrence against Russian Federation, strengthen North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and support families of USA service members.
Esper said he would like some moves will start within a matter of weeks, but there are still consultations ahead.
In a repositioning that could start within weeks, the Pentagon will be sending home about 6,400 of its military personnel in Germany, and move almost 5,600 to other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries.
Trump, however, reasserted his very narrow reason Wednesday morning, telling reporters, "we're reducing the force because they're not paying their bills". The defense chief added the troop redeployment will cost in the "single digit" billions of dollars.
The announcement is closely tied to the plan to increase the USA troop presence in Poland, a shift long desired by Warsaw and Polish President Andrzej Duda. The officials said that in the future other troops would rotate in and out of Europe.
Around 6,400 will head home - but will be redeployed back to Europe on a rotational basis - while 5,400 will be sent to countries including Italy, Belgium and Poland.
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President Donald Trump announced his intention to cut the number of US troops in Germany to 25,000, faulting the close USA ally for failing to meet NATO's defense spending target and accusing it of taking advantage of America on trade.
Each NATO nation is expected, but not required, to spend at least 2% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defense; Germany dedicated 1.4% of its GDP to military matters a year ago.
The decision fulfills Trump's announced desire to withdraw troops from Germany, at least in part because of the country's failure to spend enough on defense to meet North Atlantic Treaty Organisation obligations.
"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 USA presence in Germany and Europe in the future", the letter added. And he asserted that the Germans had long shortchanged the United States on trade and defense, declaring that "until they pay" more for their own defense, he will reduce US troops.
At present, 34,500 United States troops are stationed in Germany, along with 17,000 USA civilians and 12,000 German citizens who work at military bases in that country. "They've taken advantage of us for many years".
The goal is "to enhance deterrence and reassure allies along NATO's southeastern flank", Esper said.
Several NATO defense ministers had expressed concern about the decision to pull thousands of troops out of Germany, particularly since Trump has talked repeatedly about bringing troops home and getting the USA out of "endless wars".
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