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The Americans are in Germany because it is in their own interest — all Iraq and Afghanistan missions are controlled from German soil — and in the interest of NATO. A reduction in US troop numbers in Germany is nothing new. The number has been steadily falling for years. German government figures show that between 2006 and 2018, the number of US troops stationed in Germany more than halved, from 72,400 to around 34,000 by the yera 2020.

"It is actually offensive to assume that the US taxpayer must continue to pay to have 50,000-plus Americans in Germany, but the Germans get to spend their surplus on domestic programs," US Ambassador Richard Grenell told the DPA news agency, in comments carried widely by German media on 09 August 2019. The United States was considering withdrawing some of the US troops stationed in Germany, with Poland mooted as a possible new deployment, the US ambassador to Germany said. The threat of withdrawal comes amid ongoing differences between Berlin and Washington over Germany's contribution to NATO and a current spat caused by the German refusal to take part in a US-led naval mission in the Persian Gulf. His remarks came after the US ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher, said that the USA would be happy for the American troops in Germany to move there instead.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas expressed relief on 04 December 2020 over a move by US lawmakers to halt planned troop reductions that would see thousands of soldiers leave Germany. "As things stand we have never been given any information about the troop reductions that were announced in July, so we can't say what the plans are or if they even exist," Maas told reporters. "But we are glad that there appears to be agreement between Republicans and Democrats in Washington on revisiting this decision," he added. "American soldiers are welcome here. They contribute not just to Germany's but also to Europe's security."

On 29 July 2020, the US military unveiled its plans to withdraw about 12,000 American troops from Germany, in the latest development in President Trump's long-simmering clash with Berlin. "The current USEUCOM (United States European Command) plan will reposition approximately 11,900 military personnel from Germany. From roughly 36,000 down to 24,000 in a manner that will strengthen NATO, enhance the deterrence of Russia and meet the other principles I set forth." The US defense secretary added that, of them, nearly 5,600 service members will be repositioned within NATO countries, while the rest will return to the United States, though many of them will begin conducting rotational deployments back to Europe.

Trump explained Washington's reason to withdraw troops from Germany. "We don't want to be the suckers anymore. The United States has been taken advantage of for 25 years both on trade and on the military. We are protecting Germany. So we're reducing the force because they're not paying their bills, it's very simple. They're delinquent." Trump said "Germany pays Russia billions of dollars a year for Energy, and we are supposed to protect Germany from Russia. What’s that all about? Also, Germany is very delinquent in their 2% fee to NATO. We are therefore moving some troops out of Germany!"

Esper noted that only a relatively small number of advanced units would be moved in the beginning, considering it would take years to fully implement the withdrawal process, in part given the potentially billions of dollars in additional cost. The move is also set to irk not just Germany, but China and Russia,.. as the Pentagon noted that the latest move was part of its plans to strategically "reposition" U.S. forces in Europe to better counter threats from Beijing and Moscow.

The current plans left about 25,000 troops in Germany, but it was clear the plan would not remain intact if Trump was not reelected in November.

Lieutenant General Ben Hodges is a retired US Army officer who commanded the United States Army Europe from November 2014 to December 2017. He said "This is a complete gift to the Kremlin. A 30% reduction of US capability in Germany, disruption and further damage to our most important relationship and the Russians did not one single thing to earn this. I mean, they are as aggressive as ever in the Black Sea, they continue to occupy Crimea, they are killing Ukrainians every week. They did nothing to merit a reduction of US capability in Europe."

People in Germany are largely in favor of US troops withdrawing from their country, a YouGov online survey revealed 04 August 2020. The data showed that voters and politicians tend to disagree on the matter. Some 47% of survey respondents said they supported reducing the number of US soldiers in Germany. One in four was in favor of all US soldiers leaving. Just 28% thought the number of US troops should remain the same and only 4% were in favor of increasing their numbers.

Of Germany's six parliamentary groups, five oppose US troops leaving Germany. Only the country's left-wing die Linke Party — which supports a complete withdrawal of all US troops — is in favor of the move. Voter opinion, however, tended to differ from that of the parties they support. People who generally vote for Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU/CSU were largely against the troops leaving, with more than 40% opposed.

Trump ordered the United States military to remove nearly 9,500 troops from Germany, a senior US official said on 05 June 2020, a move likely to raise concerns in Europe about the US commitment to the region. The move would reduce US troops numbers in Germany to 25,000 from the 34,500 currently there. The 9,500 troops would be sent elsewhere, some to Poland, some to other allied countries, while some would return home. The US president wanted almost 10,000 US soldiers assigned out of Germany by September. Around 17,000 US American employees support US troops in Germany.

The move is reportedly down to Germany not increasing its defense spending sufficiently. In September 2019, US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell threatened such a move if Germany did not increase its defense spending. The move was the result of months of work by top US military officer, General Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and had nothing to do with tensions between Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who thwarted Trump's plan to host a G7 meeting this month. The Trump administration had also accused Germany of being a "captive" of Moscow because of its energy alliance in the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.

Retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, who was stationed in Germany as commander of the United States Army in Europe from 2014 to 2017, suggested that the Trump administration's view of the US military's purpose in Germany was fundamentally confused. "These troops in Germany are not there to protect Germans," he said. "Germany allows us forward stationing – Ramstein air base, Landstuhl hospital, logistics headquarters – that is for the benefit of the United States, for our security as well as our contribution to NATO." He said "If we lost Ramstein, for example, it would significantly impact our ability to do anything, not just in Europe, but in Africa and the Middle East".

The German Left party took the opportunity to welcome Trump's initiative — the former Communist party had long called for total US military withdrawal from the country, especially the nuclear missiles that are kept in Germany. "A withdrawal of US troops along with nuclear weapons from Germany would also make obsolete the German military's nuclear participation, and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer's planned procurance of new nuclear bombers made in US," the Left party's defense spokeswoman Sevim Dagdelen said in a statement. The Left party has also long criticized the fact that Germany allows the US to relay data via the Ramstein air base for its drone warfare in the Middle East.

Most Germans couldn't be bothered as long as the country is not exposed to any military threat from the outside. After all, the noise and environmental pollution caused by the troops has prompted criticism for years. The mayors and business representatives in the places where the troops are stationed are the only ones who are really concerned about the withdrawal.

The US personnel in Germany work within the framework of NATO for the Pentagon's European and Africa Commands. They operate the Ramstein airbase, a military hospital and a military training facility. They are important pillars of NATO infrastructure, but they do not, strictly speaking, contribute much to Germany's national defense.

Of the 34,500 military personnel in the Germany, around 10,000 are Air Force, stationed at two bases (Ramstein and Spangdahlem) and the rest belonging to the Army and Marines. The biggest contingent of personnel is at Grafenwöhr, Bavaria, where over 10,000 troops are stationed, and where a small but significant American community has built up over the years. Many Germans in the area also regard the long-term military presence with affection.

From 1945 to 1950, the primary mission of the United States military units stationed in the American zone of Germany was occupational. By 1950, however, that concept changed to emphasize the defense of Western Europe. Unlike US Army Military Communities, US Air Bases tend to be more rural and centralized.

Germany is the best overseas assignment possible. The United States Army, Europe (USAREUR) provides a wide support base, and Germany's modern infrastructure, quality housing, highways, and friendly people all contribute to a great tour. The travel opportunities are endless: Germany's central location in Europe puts all of Europe within easy reach.

Germany is a land of fascinating contrasts. There are villages that retain their medieval character complete with peaked roofs, picturesque windows with featherbeds airing over windowsills, church steeples piercing the sky, and massive walls and towers of bygone castles looming in the distance. These villages are often only a few kilometers from large cities. The countryside is quite intriguing. Forests, mostly evergreens, cover more than one fourth of the country. Strips of cultivated land give the countryside a patchwork appearance. There are usually no solitary farmhouses; instead farmers live in small villages and go out to work in the surrounding fields. Central and Southern Germany is mountainous with the Alps rising to 8,000 and 9,000 feet above sea level. The eight principal river systems and their thousands of tributaries and lakes add to the beauty of the country. However, early winter ice can be a problem. Rainfall measures approximately 25.5 inches a year.

US military vehicles that require host nation approval to operate on public roads must submit movement requests through the area Highway Movement Control Team (HMCT). HMCTs are subordinate elements of the Transportation Battalion (MC) Highway Traffic Division and are responsible for coordinating with the appropriate host nation authorities to process movement bids and pass march credits back to the requesting units. The HMCTs in Germany work directly with, and are normally colocated with the Wehrbereichskommando (WBK). The WBK is the military district command that controls movement by all military forces throughout it’s area of responsibility. An approved march credit grants the requesting unit permission to move over a specified route at a fixed time as provided in the movement instructions issued with the march credit. March credits and routings are binding and are an order of the Commander in Chief, USAREUR. USAREUR units should understand that the final approval or disapproval for movements requiring a march credit rests with the host nation movement control authorities (WBK). Units cannot begin movement until the march credit is granted.

The Department of Defense announced on September 12, 2002 plans for the transfer of four US Army Europe facilities located in Germany back to the German government. The facilities affected are the Oberdachstetten family housing area in Ansbach, the Regensburg housing area in Regensburg, the Rheinau Coal Point D1 in Mannheim, the Johnson Barracks in Nuernberg and a portion of the Garmisch Shopping Center. These transfers continue the process of returning facilities to Germany. The last such transfer occurred in January 2001 when the Rheingrafenstein Training and Storage Area in the city of Bad Kreuznach and the Quirnheim Missile Station near Mannheim were returned to the German government.

The Department of Defense and the US Army continually review force structure and facilities around the world to identify the most efficient means of operation. The process for reviewing and adjusting the stationing of forces has always involved close cooperation with appropriate U.S. and host nation officials. The number of US Army soldiers in in Germany has fallen from 208,000 to 48,000 by the end of 2006, while the total number of service members dropped from 248,000 to 64,000 by the end of 2006.


Page last modified: 01-07-2021 18:03:21 ZULU