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US says no plans to deploy troops from Germany to Indo-Pacific

Then-Secretary of the Army, Dr. Mark Esper, talks to 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command Soldiers at the Landstuhl Satellite Facility, Germany, on Sept. 24, 2018. (Pfc. Charles Thorman/U.S. Army)

The United States on Wednesday said there were no plans of deploying troops being pulled out of Germany to the Indo-Pacific, contrary to earlier indications from senior officials of the Trump administration..

“Right now there are no plans to do so,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters at a briefing on the review of troops posture in eastern command. He was responding to a specific question if troops being pulled out of Germany will be sent to the Indo-Pacific to respond to the Chinese military threat.

The top Pentagon official, however, kept open the possibility saying the US could “eventually take a look” at the Indo-Pacific during a review of the Indo-Pacific command.

The secretary announced that the approximately 11,900 military personnel will be repositioned from Germany – bringing down the troops-strength from roughly 36,000 down to 24,000 – “in a manner that it will strengthen NATO, enhance the deterrence of Russia, and meet the other principles”.

Of these 11,900, nearly 5,600 will be redeployed 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, he added.

“These changes will unquestionably achieve the core principles of enhancing US and NATO deterrence of Russia; strengthening NATO; reassuring Allies; and, improving US strategic flexibility,” said Secretary Esper.

There had been indications from senior Trump administration officials earlier that these troops in Germany could be headed for the Indo-Pacific. Asked about where they could be redeployed at a conference in June, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said, referring to Chinese threats to India, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia challenges in the South China Sea, “We’re going to make sure we’re postured appropriately to counter the PLA. We think that’s the challenge of our time, and we’re going to make sure we have resources in place to do that.”

National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien had been more explicit in an op-ed he wrote in the Wall Street Journal explaining the Trump administration’s reasons just a few days before. “Several thousand troops currently assigned to Germany may be reassigned to other countries in Europe. Thousands may expect to redeploy to the Indo-Pacific, where the US maintains a military presence in Guam, Hawaii, Alaska and Japan, as well as deployments in locations like Australia.”

He had added, “In that theatre, Americans and allies face the most significant geopolitical challenge since the end of the Cold War.”


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