- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The U.S. will station another 500 troops in Germany as part of a new “multi-domain task force,” Pentagon officials said Tuesday, officially closing the book on former President Trump’s ill-fated plan to move thousands of American troops out of the country.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the shift after meeting with German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who hailed the reversal as a “strong signal” of America’s commitment to its European ally. The 500 troops will join the roughly 35,000 American personnel now in Germany and are expected to arrive by the fall.

While the number of troops is relatively low, the signal sent by their deployment is significant. The move serves as a way for the Biden administration to mend fences with a German government that was often at odds with Mr. Trump on defense spending and a host of other issues. Mr. Trump had feuded openly with German Chancellor Angela Merkel over U.S. policy toward NATO and the European Union, the size of the German defense budget and the cost of keeping a large U.S. military presence in Germany.

Mr. Austin said the new forces will also bring tangible benefits for European security.

“These forces will strengthen deterrence and defense in Europe. They will augment our existing abilities to prevent conflict, and, if necessary, fight and win,” he said Tuesday.  “This move will also create more space, more cyber, and more electronic warfare capabilities in Europe.”

The military’s enhanced capabilities in Europe will also serve as a not-so-subtle signal to Russia, which has been repositioning its own forces along its border with Ukraine and has actively tried to exploit the rift between Washington and Berlin. 

Germany also is the home of the U.S. Africa Command, making the country a key cog in America’s counterterrorism campaign in Africa.

Pentagon officials said the 500 new troops headed to Europe will form a “multi-domain task force and theater fires command” that will support U.S. Army Europe and Africa. The units will be stationed at the garrison in Wiesbaden.

The U.S. military also will retain control three sites — Mainz Kastel Station and Mainz Kastel Housing in Mainz-Kastel, and Dagger Complex in Darmstadt — that were scheduled to be handed back to the German government under Mr. Trump’s reorganization plan.

Last July, Mr. Trump and Pentagon officials abruptly announced plans to pull about 12,000 troops from Germany. The announcement came as the president publicly pressured Germany and other NATO allies to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense – a threshold German officials say they are still working to meet.

Mr. Trump’s proposal was never enacted. Mr. Biden and Mr. Austin in January implemented a review of U.S. troop deployments abroad, and in early February Mr. Biden officially stopped all planning for the drawdown in Germany. Mr. Austin said Tuesday that the U.S. has “ceased planning” for future troop reductions in Europe.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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