The Department of Defense is reportedly analyzing whether or not it is feasible to conduct a large-scale withdrawal or transfer of U.S. troops in Germany, according to a Washington Post report published on Friday.
President Donald Trump reportedly mulled the option after meeting with military aides earlier this year, U.S. officials said in the report. Trump, who has had a tenuous relationship with the German chancellor Angela Merkel, was said to have been surprised by the number of U.S. troops stationed in the region.
Some U.S. officials were said to have tried to dissuade Trump from taking action.
In addition to the U.S. presence in Germany, Trump was reportedly vexed by his belief that other NATO countries were not contributing enough to the organization. Trump has frequently vented his frustration and criticized NATO members for failing to abide by the 2%-of-GDP defense-spending level that members agreed to during the alliance's inception.
European officials were reportedly alarmed at the possibility of U.S. troop movements — some of whom wondered whether Trump might use it as a negotiation tactic.
A German citizen greets U.S. vehicles from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division during a tactical road march from Grafenwoehr Training Area to Hohenfels, Germany, April 23, 2018.U.S. Army/Spc. Dustin D. Biven
The National Security Council downplayed the significance and said it had not asked for a formal analysis on repositioning troops: "The Pentagon continuously evaluates U.S. troop deployments," a statement from the NSC said, according to The Washington Post. The statement added that the "analysis exercises" were "not out of the norm."
"The Pentagon regularly reviews force posture and performs cost-benefit analyses," Eric Pahon, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said in a statement to The Washington Post. "This is nothing new. Germany is host to the largest US force presence in Europe — we remain deeply rooted in the common values and strong relationships between our countries. We remain fully committed to our NATO ally and the NATO alliance."
But despite repeated denials of a rift between U.S. and NATO countries, Trump has suggested withdrawing from the 29-member alliance on multiple occasions.
"My statement on NATO being obsolete and disproportionately too expensive (and unfair) for the U.S. are now, finally, receiving plaudits," Trumps said during his 2016 presidential campaign on Twitter.
Trump has similarly suggested pulling U.S. troops out of South Korea. Citing several people familiar with the discussions, The New York Times reported in May that he had ordered the Pentagon to prepare options for a drawdown.
"We lose money on trade, and we lose money on the military," Trump said in a speech March. "We have right now 32,000 soldiers on the border between North and South Korea," Trump added. "Let's see what happens."
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