The US will begin redeploying troops stationed in Germany within weeks, Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said. Some 12,000 troops will move – around half will be brought home, and half will move to European countries like Italy.
Esper told reporters on Wednesday that out of 11,900 American soldiers to be moved from Germany, around 6,400 will return to the US, and 5,600 will be redeployed to other NATO countries.
The troops staying in Europe will be moved to Italy and Belgium, US Air Force General Tod Wolters, commander of the US European Command, said.
In addition, the Pentagon will also move its headquarters from Germany’s Stuttgart to Belgium, Esper said.
A fighter squadron and elements of a fighter wing will be repositioned to Italy, moving them closer to the Black Sea region, and [making them] better capable of conducting dynamic force employments and rotational deployments to NATO’s southeastern flank.
The plans follow up on US President Donald Trump’s vow last month to pull out a portion of American troops stationed in Germany. Trump made the move after repeatedly criticizing his NATO ally for failing to increase defense spending.
German officials have called the move politically motivated, criticizing Trump for cutting the US military presence in the country without any consultations with Berlin. Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer argued earlier this month that NATO’s goal of increasing defense spending to two percent of GDP is losing relevance amid the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. Last year, the German government promised to hit that spending target by 2031.