During a press conference on the US force structure in Europe, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper announced that 11,900 US military would be repositioned out of Germany.
Of the personnel affected, 5,600 are set to be repositioned across NATO allied nations, with the remaining 6,400 set to return to the US to ‘address readiness and prepare for rotational deployments.’
The move follows a decision from US President Donald Trump in early June to reposition some US forces out of Germany, bringing the total number of US forces down from 36,000 to 24,000.
The Department of Defence (DOD) said the troop movements were decided following five core principles set by Esper that were to “enhance deterrence of Russia, strengthen NATO, reassure allies, improve US strategic flexibility and EUCOM operational flexibility, and take care of our service members and their families in the process.”
Commenting on the move, Esper said: “The current EUCOM 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.
“Of the 11,900, nearly 5,600 Service members will be repositioned within NATO countries, and approximately 6,400 will return to the United States, though many of these or similar units will begin conducting rotational deployments back to Europe.”
Under the plans, US headquarters outside of Germany will be consolidated and in some cases, US bases will co-locate with allied NATO powers. 4,500 members of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment will return to the US, while other Stryker brigades begin continuous rotations in the Black Sea region, Esper said.
Elsewhere 2,500 aircrew members currently based at Mildenhall, UK, will remain in-country instead of rebasing to Germany as was originally planned.
Esper said that a fighter squadron and “elements of a fighter wing” would be redeployed to Italy “moving them closer to the Black Sea region and better capable of conducting dynamic force employments and rotational deployments to NATO’s south-eastern flank.”
The US also plans to move its newly established V Corps headquarters to Poland pending a Defense Cooperation Agreement and burden sharing plan agreed by Washington DC and Warsaw.
Esper added: “Our aim is to implement these moves as expeditiously as possible, consistent with the principles I set forth from the beginning, particularly being fair to and taking care of our Service members and their families. We could see some moves begin within weeks; others will take longer.”
Commenting on the US force posture in Europe, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said: “Today’s announcement by Secretary Esper on US forces in Europe underlines the continued commitment by the United States to NATO and to European security.
“Peace and security in Europe is important for the security and prosperity of North America, and as we face a more unpredictable world, we are stronger and safer when we stand together. The US has consulted closely with all NATO Allies ahead of today’s announcement.”