The United States plans to withdraw about 70,000 troops from Europe and Asia in a major realignment of American military presence prompted by the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the war on terrorism, U.S. officials said on Saturday.
President George W. Bush will unveil the move to make the high-tech military much more mobile in a speech on Monday to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Cincinnati, Ohio, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The president is going to make an announcement about a major initiative to reduce the burden on our forces overseas,” said one of the U.S. officials.
They confirmed a report in the Financial Times of a total shift of at least 70,000 troops from overseas to home bases. The British newspaper, citing people briefed on the plan, said two-thirds of the reductions would be made in Europe, mostly in Germany.
“Germany is definitely a place where there will be a major rearrangement,” one U.S. official told Reuters of plans to bring two big armored units back to the United States from there. The Washington Post reported on Saturday that as many as 100,000 U.S. troops could eventually be returned to the United States as the realignment evolved in years ahead.
Pentagon officials have been carefully studying U.S. commitments overseas to rearrange the ponderous global deployments of U.S. forces adopted in the Cold War and make the American military more mobile in the new war on terrorism declared by Bush after the 2001 attacks on America.
There are currently more than 100,000 American troops in Europe, including about 70,000 in Germany, and another 100,000 in the Asia-Pacific region. About 150,000 additional troops are now in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“This will take years to complete,” said one Pentagon official, who refused to discuss the number of troops involved. “It will not, it will not, result in any reduced commitment to our friends and allies. Wherever people go down, weapons and technology will more than make up the difference.”
A senior administration official traveling with Bush in Portland, Oregon, said the president “will be discussing next week how the United States will structure its military capabilities to meet the threats of the 21st century with new technologies and new capabilities.”
“It’s important not that our military posture reflect the Cold War but the new threats of the 21st century,” said the senior official.
Washington and Seoul announced earlier this year that the United States was removing about 12,500 of the 37,000 troops stationed in South Korea for decades and sending many of them to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan. One U.S. official said on Saturday, however, some of those troops could be returned to South Korea.
The proposed global realignment includes plans to use bases in Eastern European countries of the former Soviet bloc as transit points to quickly send forces from the United States to trouble spots such as the Middle East and northern Africa.