US to bring 6,400 troops home from Germany, move 5,600 more

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks with US soldiers during his visit to American military installations in Grafenwoehr and Vilseck, Germany, November 7, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 29 July 2020

US to bring 6,400 troops home from Germany, move 5,600 more

  • The decision fulfills Trump’s announced desire to withdraw troops from Germany, largely due to its failure to spend enough on defense
  • Members of Trump’s own political party have criticized the troop move as a gift to Russia and a threat to US national security

WASHINGTON: Spurred on by President Donald Trump’s demand to pull troops out of Germany, the US will bring about 6,400 forces home and shift about 5,600 to other countries in Europe, US 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 US 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 US 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 US 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 US national security. Twenty-two Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee fired back with a letter to Trump saying a reduced US 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 US 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 US is not reducing its commitment to the region and remains ready to protect Eastern Europe from any Moscow aggression.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has voiced support for the plan while also acknowledging it will take “months to plan and years to execute.” He was briefed on the issue last week, and he issued a statement saying the “concept for realigning US military posture in Europe” is sound.
Trump announced last month that he wanted to cut the number of active duty US troops in Germany from roughly 36,000 to less than 25,000. Shifting forces out of the country had long been rumored and is in line with Pentagon efforts to put more troops in the Indo-Pacific. But Trump’s comments indicated the move was tied more directly to his anger over Germany’s failure to meet NATO defense spending goals.
Trump has branded Germany “delinquent” for failing to meet a NATO goal set in 2014 for members to halt budget cuts and move toward spending at least 2% of gross national product on defense by 2024. 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 a Rose Garden event last month with Duda, Trump said that some of the troops from Germany would go to Poland and some would go to “other places.”
Under an agreement announced last year, the US already said it was sending about 1,000 more troops to Poland, and progress is being made, officials said, to lay the groundwork for those moves. Based on that agreement, the US will add a division headquarters, a combat training center, an unmanned aircraft squadron and structure to support an Army brigade that could rotate in and out of the country.
Overall, the US has about 47,000 troops and civilian personnel in Germany, spread out across a number of bases, headquarters and smaller installations. Most of the 36,000 on active duty are in a handful of larger Army and Air Force bases including Ramstein Air Base, a hub in the region. There also are 2,600 National Guard and Reserve forces in Germany and almost 12,000 civilians working for the services or the Defense Department.
After Trump’s meeting with Duda, Esper in early July made a rare overseas trip to NATO for a brief visit, seeking to reassure allies that Washington is still committed to the region and that he will consult with them on troops movements. Because of the coronavirus threat, international travel has been significantly limited.
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 US out of “endless wars.”


Biden expected to nominate Blinken as secretary of state

Updated 26 min 43 sec ago

Biden expected to nominate Blinken as secretary of state

  • Antony Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration and has close ties with Biden
  • Biden has pledged to build the most diverse government in modern history, and he and his team often speak about their desire for his administration to reflect America

WASHINGTON: President-elect Joe Biden is expected to nominate Antony Blinken as secretary of state, according to multiple people familiar with the Biden team’s planning.
Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration and has close ties with Biden. If nominated and confirmed, he would be a leading force in the incoming administration’s bid to reframe the US relationship with the rest of the world after four years in which President Donald Trump questioned longtime alliances.
In nominating Blinken, Biden would sidestep potentially thorny issues that could have affected Senate confirmation for two other candidates on his short list to be America’s top diplomat: Susan Rice and Sen. Chris Coons.
Rice would have faced significant GOP opposition and likely rejection in the Senate. She has long been a target of Republicans, including for statements she made after the deadly 2012 attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya.
Coons, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, lacked the granular experience in managing day-to-day foreign policy issues that Blinken would bring to the job.
Biden is likely to name his Cabinet picks in tranches, with groups of nominees focused on a specific top area, like the economy, national security or public health, being announced at once. Advisers to the president-elect’s transition have said they’ll make their first Cabinet announcements on Tuesday.
If Biden focuses on national security that day, Michèle Flournoy, a veteran of Pentagon policy jobs, is a top choice to lead the Defense Department. Jake Sullivan, a longtime adviser to Biden and Hillary Clinton, is also in the mix for a top job, including White House national security adviser.
For his part, Blinken recently participated in a national security briefing with Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and has weighed in publicly on notable foreign policy issues in Egypt and Ethiopia.
Biden’s secretary of state would inherit a deeply demoralized and depleted career workforce at the State Department. Trump’s two secretaries of state, Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo, offered weak resistance to the administration’s attempts to gut the agency, which were thwarted only by congressional intervention.
Although the department escaped massive proposed cuts of more than 30% in its budget for three consecutive years, it has seen a significant number of departures from its senior and rising mid-level ranks, from which many diplomats have opted to retire or leave the foreign service given limited prospects for advancements under an administration that they believe does not value their expertise.
A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School and a longtime Democratic foreign policy presence, Blinken has aligned himself with numerous former senior national security officials who have called for a major reinvestment in American diplomacy and renewed emphasis on global engagement.
“Democracy is in retreat around the world, and unfortunately it’s also in retreat at home because of the president taking a two-by-four to its institutions, its values and its people every day,” Blinken told The Associated Press in September. “Our friends know that Joe Biden knows who they are. So do our adversaries. That difference would be felt on day one.”
Blinken served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration before becoming staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chair of the panel. In the early years of the Obama administration, Blinken returned to the NSC and was then-Vice President Biden’s national security adviser before he moved to the State Department to serve as deputy to Secretary of State John Kerry.
Biden also is expected to tap longtime diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield as the US ambassador to the United Nations.
Biden has pledged to build the most diverse government in modern history, and he and his team often speak about their desire for his administration to reflect America. He is being watched to see whether he will make history by nominating the first woman to lead the Pentagon, the Treasury Department or the Department of Veterans Affairs or the first African American at the top of the Defense Department, the Interior Department or the Treasury Department.
Ron Klain, Biden’s incoming chief of staff, said Sunday the Trump administration’s refusal to clear the way for Biden’s team to have access to key information about agencies and federal dollars for the transition is taking its toll on planning, including the Cabinet selection process. Trump’s General Services Administration has yet to acknowledge that Biden won the election — a determination that would remove those roadblocks.
“We’re not in a position to get background checks on Cabinet nominees. And so there are definite impacts. Those impacts escalate every day,” Klain told ABC’s “This Week.”
Even some Republicans have broken with Trump in recent days and called on him to begin the transition. Joining the growing list were Sens. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Former Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a longtime Trump supporter, told ABC that it was time for the president to stop contesting the outcome and called Trump’s legal team seeking to overturn the election a “national embarrassment.”
Meanwhile, planning was underway for a pandemic-modified inauguration Jan. 20. Klain said the Biden team was consulting with Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate over their plans.
“They’re going to try to have an inauguration that honors the importance and the symbolic meaning of the moment, but also does not result in the spread of the disease. That’s our goal,” Klain said.