WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has formally stopped the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from Germany that was ordered last year by the Trump administration but had never actually begun.
Speaking at the State Department on Thursday, Biden said the troop pullout would be halted until Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin does a review of America’s troops presence around the globe. Austin, he said, will ensure that “our military footprint is appropriately aligned with our foreign policy and national security priorities.”
In a statement, Austin said DoD will conduct “a global force posture review of U.S. military footprint, resources, strategy and missions.”
The review, he said, I ”will inform my advice to the commander in chief about how we best allocate military forces in pursuit of national interests. The review will be led by the acting under secretary of defense for policy, in close consultation with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”
DoD “will consult our allies and partners as we conduct this review,” Austin said. “As I said on my first day in the job, no one succeeds at this business alone. From Afghanistan and the Middle East, across Europe, Africa and our own hemisphere, to the wide expanse of the western Pacific, the United States stands shoulder-to-shoulder with allies old and new, partners big and small. Each of them brings to the mission unique skills, knowledge and capabilities. And each of them represents a relationship worth tending, preserving and respecting. We will do so.”
Last year, then-President Donald Trump announced that he was going to pull out about 9,500 of the roughly 34,500 U.S. troops that are stationed in Germany. The U.S. has several major military facilities in the country, including Ramstein Air Base, the headquarters for U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command, and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the largest American hospital outside the United States.
Trump’s order met resistance from Congress as well as from within the military, which has long relied on Germany as a key ally and base of operations. Trump announced the troop cuts after repeatedly accusing Germany of not paying enough for its own defense, calling the longtime NATO ally “delinquent” for failing to spend 2 percent of its GDP on defense, the alliance benchmark.
The Pentagon began a review, to determine which troops would be redeployed to other locations and which would remain in Germany. That study has been ongoing, and there have been no reductions or changes to U.S. troop levels since Trump’s announcement.
Austin hinted at a likely reconsideration of the order in a conversation with his German counterpart last week.
Chief Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the issue of troop cuts came up during Austin’s call with German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, and that Austin made it clear that he wants to review America’s force posture around the globe.
“What he did assert to the defense minister was that whatever decision we make, we’ll do it in consultation with her and her government,” Kirby said, adding that Austin “made it very clear that he values the support that we’ve received for so many years from Germany.
German officials have hoped that order will be rescinded by the new administration, and the German Defense Ministry said that in Austin’s call with Kramp-Karrenbauer he “emphasized that Germany is highly valued as a station and that American soldiers feel very comfortable here.”
“The U.S. continues to consider its presence in Germany as an important part of joint security,” the Defense Ministry said in a readout of the call.
Associated Press writer Aamer Madhani contributed to this report.