Amid growing congressional opposition, President Donald Trump approved Pentagon plans to redeploy 9,500 U.S. troops from Germany.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley, who briefed Trump on Monday, said the plan would improve “strategic flexibility” and benefit troops and their families, according to a statement released by the Pentagon Tuesday evening.
“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,” according to the statement by Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman.
“Pentagon leaders look forward to briefing this plan to the congressional defense committees in the coming weeks, followed by consultations with NATO allies on the way forward. We will be providing timely updates to potentially affected personnel, their families and communities as planning progresses.”
Pentagon officials told Military Times no further details would yet be released about when the troops might be redeployed or where they might go. There are currently about 34,500 U.S. troops stationed in Germany.
Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, said in an op-ed published last week in The Wall Street Journal that, “Several thousand troops currently assigned to Germany may be reassigned to other countries in Europe. Thousands may expect to redeploy to the Indo-Pacific, where the U.S. maintains a military presence in Guam, Hawaii, Alaska and Japan, as well as deployments in locations like Australia.”
In addition, last week, the U.S. ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher, told TVN24 in Poland that the U.S. will send another 1,000 troops to Poland — over and above the 1,000 declared last year. But she said they might not necessarily be transferred from Germany.
Hours before the Pentagon statement was released, lawmakers said they were readying proposals to rebuke Trump’s troop withdrawal plans amid dissatisfaction with the administration’s rationale for the move and concerns it will weaken NATO.
A bipartisan group of senators led by Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney proposed an amendment to the Senate’s version of the annual defense policy bill that would freeze troop numbers in Germany.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., said separately Tuesday that the plan seemed strategically unsound and that Congress should block the administration until it makes its case. Legislative action is likely in the House on Wednesday when Smith’s panel marks up the HASC version of the bill.
“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 [Department of Defense] has not made that case to date, and the president is doing it in a very haphazard manner,” Smith told reporters.
“We need to know what they’re talking about, and it’s appropriate for the moment to say: ‘Yeah, hold up until we know where you’re going and what you’re doing on this.’ We don’t think it’s a good idea.”
Trump said during an Oval Office meeting last week with Polish leader Andrzej Duda that the U.S. plans to move some troops from Germany to Poland, and that some troops “will be coming home.” He repeated accusations that Germany has been “delinquent in their payments” to the NATO security alliance.
The Pentagon said previously it was working options with U.S. European Command to meet Trump’s directive. Based on the U.S. agreement with Poland, the U.S. 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.
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.
Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.