- The Washington Times - Monday, August 3, 2020

Part of the U.S. Army’s recently reactivated V Corps headquarters will be sent to Poland while other U.S. military organizations in Europe are being shifted out of Germany, as the Pentagon moved quickly to implement President Trump’s shake-up of U.S. forces on the continent.

The signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, EDCA, between the United States and Poland, is the latest move in what is fast becoming the most sweeping changes to troop levels in Europe since the end of the Cold War — and a source of tension between Washington and Berlin.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Monday the new agreement reflects the “shared vision” outlined in the joint declarations signed in 2019 by President Trump and Polish President Andrzej Duda, who has openly lobbied to host more American troops — on a permanent basis — in a face of an increasingly assertive Russia on his border.

“It provides the required legal framework, infrastructure and equitable burden-sharing essential to deepening our defense cooperation,” Mr. Esper said in a statement.

About 1,000 troops, in addition to the 4,500 U.S. personnel already there, will be able to rotate to Poland now that the EDCA has been approved.

Likely Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden and lawmakers of both parties have criticized Mr. Trump’s redeployment moves, which follow years of White House complaints about low levels of German defense spending and the high cost of deploying U.S. troops.

But Pentagon officials insist the troop shuffle will enhance deterrence against an expansionist Russia, strengthen NATO and reassure allies.

Mr. Trump has regularly complained that Germany isn’t paying its fair share for the collective defense of the NATO member states. That was the explanation he provided for the decision to shift about 12,000 troops out of Germany, out of a total of about 34,000.

NATO members are asked to devote 2% of gross domestic product to defense by 2024 as a way to bolster collective defense. Poland hits the target but Germany and other Western European countries do not.

The headquarters for U.S. European Command will be transferred out of Germany to Mons, Belgium. U.S. Africa Command announced it is developing plans to relocate their headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany and was still scouting possible new hosts.

“The command will look first at options elsewhere in Europe, but also will consider options in the United States,” U.S. Africa Command officials said in a statement.

It will likely take several months to come to a decision after developing options and considering locations, said U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of U.S. Africa Command.

U.S. Africa Command was established in 2008 to advance U.S. national interests in Africa, and develop “capable and professional” partner military forces, officials said.

“It is important our African partners understand our commitment to them remains strong,” Gen. Townsend said. “U.S. Africa Command will continue to work with our African and other partners to address mutual interests.”

The troop reductions in Germany could be in doubt if Mr. Trump loses his reelection bid. Anthony Blinken, Mr. Biden’s senior foreign policy adviser, said a Democratic administration would review all decisions made by its predecessor, including the troop drawdown.

“It certainly begins with the way it was done. But we have a profound problem with the substance of it as well,” Mr. Blinken said in an interview with Reuters.

Pentagon officials have stressed that parts of the German drawdown will take months and even years to carry out, giving Mr. Biden an opportunity to apply the brakes to the process.

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