Trump approves Pentagon plan to move 9,500 troops out of Germany

President Trump has approved a Pentagon plan to fulfill his order to move 9,500 U.S. troops out of Germany, the Defense Department said Tuesday.

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement that Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley briefed Trump on plans Monday to “redeploy” the troops.

“The proposal that was approved not only meets the president’s directive, it will also enhance Russian deterrence, strengthen NATO, reassure allies, improve U.S. strategic flexibility and U.S. European Command’s operational flexibility, and take care of our service members and their families,” Hoffman said.

Pentagon leaders will brief congressional defense committees on the plan “in the coming weeks,” followed by consultations with NATO allies, Hoffman added.

“We will be providing timely updates to potentially affected personnel, their families and communities as planning progresses,” Hoffman said.

The statement did not say where the troops would go, but Trump indicated last week some would move to Poland while others would come back to the United States.

“Some will be coming home, and some will be going to other places. But Poland would be one of those other places, other places in Europe,” Trump said after a meeting at the White House with Polish President Andrzej Duda.

National security adviser Robert O’Brien has also argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that forces are needed in the Indo-Pacific region.

Trump abruptly announced earlier this month that he planned to reduce the U.S. troop presence in Germany from 34,500 to 25,000. Germany is home to the headquarters for U.S. European and Africa commands.

Trump has cast the move as a response to Germany not meeting NATO’s goal of spending at least 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense. NATO allies agreed in 2014 to meet the goal by 2024.

“Germany is paying a very small fraction of what they’re supposed to be paying,” Trump said last week, accusing Berlin of “tremendous delinquency.”

The plan has sparked a fierce bipartisan pushback, with lawmakers arguing a drawdown would undermine U.S. alliances, be a gift to Russia and diminish a cost-effective hub for operations around the globe.

“The president has a way of simply unilaterally saying we’re pulling them out, and then they backfill the plan. I think that is very problematic,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) told reporters Tuesday.

“The way they pitched it to us was that we’re not taking troops out of Europe, we wish to reposition them to more forward positions,” Smith added. “It is possible that there is a scenario where repositioning troops out of Germany is in our national security interests. The president has not made that case to date. The [Defense Department] has not made that case. And the president is doing it in a very haphazard manner.”

The House committee is expected to consider an amendment limiting Trump’s ability to withdraw from Germany when it considers the annual defense policy bill on Wednesday.

A bipartisan group of senators has also introduced an amendment to the upper chamber’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would put limits on Trump’s ability to pull out from Germany.

Tags Adam Smith Donald Trump Mark Esper

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