- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Bipartisan concerns of a U.S. troop withdrawal from Germany is growing among lawmakers as the Pentagon continues planning to relocate its U.S. European  Command (EUCOM) and Africa Command (AFRICOM) headquarters to another European country, or potentially the U.S.

In July, President Trump abruptly announced that nearly 12,000 American troops would be relocated from Germany and force troop levels to drop from 36,000 to 24,000 with the bulk of the troops will return to the U.S., while others will be deployed to other European countries. He also announced that both EUCOM and AFRICOM would be relocated from their longstanding Stuttgart locations.

“I don’t think this plan was particularly well thought out and I worry about a number of aspects of its implementation,” Rep. Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said during a hearing on U.S. force posture in Europe.

The Washington state Democrat said that the AFRICOM move out of Germany “does not seem to make any sense.” He said that the objective of reducing 12,000 troops “did not seem to be tied to any particular requirement” and that “the numbers seemed to be artificial.”

James Anderson, acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, defended the Pentagon’s move and said that a review of the U.S.’ European force posture led to the 12,000 figure. He called it a “major strategic shift wholly in line with the [National Defense Strategy.]”

The panel’s top Republican, Rep. Mac Thornberry, said that “many of these questions arise because of the way this announcement was made.”

“There needs to be an overall strategic plan coordinated with allies rather than have a bunch of rationalizations after the fact,” the Texas Republican said.

At the time of the announcement, U.S. defense officials said the repositioning plan was designed solely to increase NATO’s security and ensure that U.S. forces are best positioned to defend the alliance from Russia or other bad actors in the region.

The reshuffling follows complaints from Mr. Trump that Germany was not paying its fair share to NATO’s collective defense. He has stated, however, that he was willing to “rethink” the shifts “if they start paying their bills.”

Germany will spend about 1.25% of gross domestic product on defense this year, well below the 2% target that NATO countries are pledged to meet by 2024.

Lawmakers expressed some skepticism of the plan when it was announced but renewed their confusion on Wednesday of the costly overhaul.

“I’m really having trouble connecting the dots with this,” Rep. Jim Langevin, Rhode Island Democrat, said. “It’s fixing a problem that really I don’t think exists right now, and it’s going to cause more problems than anything it’s going to solve.”

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