U.S. Africa Command (Africom) has been ordered to draw up plans to relocate its headquarters as part of the Trump administration’s military drawdown in Germany, the command said Friday.
“U.S. Africa Command has been told to plan to move,” commander Gen. Stephen Townsend said in a statement. “While it will likely take several months to develop options, consider locations, and come to a decision, the command has started the process. We will ensure we continue to support our host nation and African partners and our families and forces throughout.”
Townsend added that the U.S.'s commitment to its partners in Africa “remains strong” and said the United States is “very grateful to Germany for their partnership.”
“International cooperation remains important to addressing mutual security challenges, especially in Africa,” he said.
On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperFormer defense secretary Esper sues Pentagon in memoir dispute Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Major Russia weapons test stokes tensions Three key behind-the-scenes figures in Jan. 6 probe MORE announced that 11,900 U.S. troops will leave Germany, fulfilling President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer defense secretary Esper sues Pentagon in memoir dispute Biden celebrates start of Hanukkah Fauci says lies, threats are 'noise' MORE’s order to slash the number of troops there.
Esper framed the move as a strategic realignment of forces to better counter Russia.
But Trump has repeatedly said he ordered the withdrawal to punish Germany for not spending more on defense, an argument he reiterated moments after Esper’s press briefing Wednesday.
"We’re reducing the force because they’re not paying their bills. It’s very simple. They’re delinquent," Trump told reporters.
Of the troops leaving Germany, about 5,600 will be stationed elsewhere in Europe, while about 6,400 will come back to the United States.
Stuttgart, Germany, is home to the headquarters for U.S. European and Africa commands. At Wednesday’s briefing, officials said European Command would relocate to Belgium.
Officials also raised the possibility Wednesday of Africom relocating, but Friday’s statement from the command was more definitive.
As it studies where to move, Africom will first look at other sites in Europe, but will also study locations in the United States, the news release said.
Africom has avoided locating its headquarters on the continent where it is focused over African concerns about the militarization of U.S. foreign policy toward the continent.
When Africom was established in 2008, Stuttgart was chosen as an interim headquarters, with the intention of selecting a permanent location later.
But in 2013, the Pentagon decided to keep the headquarters at Stuttgart after a study that looked at sites in Europe, the United States and Africa. At the time, the Pentagon cited operational needs, as well as the upfront costs of moving.