Congress wants to block Trump’s German troop withdrawal plans

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WASHINGTON Congress is preparing proposals to reprimand President Donald Trump plans to withdraw around 10,000 US soldiers from Germany amid dissatisfaction with the government’s reasons for the move and concerns that it will weaken NATO.

When Trump confirmed rumored plans to withdraw American military personnel in Germany in the coming months, a bipartisan group of Senators led by the Republican Senate of Utah, Mitt Romney, proposed an amendment to the version of the Senate’s annual Defense Policy Bill, which included troop numbers would freeze in Germany.

House Armed Services Committee chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., Separately said Tuesday that the plan appeared strategically unsound and that Congress should block the government until it comes up with its case. Legislative action is likely in the House of Representatives on Wednesday when Smith’s panel marks the HASC version of the bill.

“It is possible that there is a scenario in which the repositioning of troops from Germany is in our national security interest. The President has not brought this case to the present day [Department of Defense] has not brought this case up to date, and the President is doing so in a very arbitrary manner, ”Smith told reporters.

“We need to know what they are talking about and it is appropriate for the moment to say, ‘Yes, wait until we know where you are going and what you are doing.’ We don’t think that’s a good idea. “

Trump said at a meeting of the Oval Office with Polish leader Andrzej Duda last week that the US is planning to move some troops from Germany to Poland and that some troops will “be coming home”. He repeated allegations that Germany was “delinquent in their payments ”to the NATO security alliance.

Though Trump did not disclose the troop numbers affected, White House National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said in an essay in the Wall Street Journal this month that the U.S. will reduce its permanently stationed troops in Germany from 34,500 to 25,000.

“The Cold War practice of stationing large numbers of troops with their families on massive bases in places like Germany is now partially obsolete,” he wrote.

The Pentagon has said it is working with the US European Command on options to comply with Trump’s directive. Based on US agreement with Poland, the U.S. will add a divisional headquarters, combat training center, unmanned aircraft squadron, and structure to support an army brigade that could rotate in and out of the country.

A group of U.S. Army soldiers participate in an annual Polish Army Day military parade in Warsaw, Poland, on August 15, 2018.  (Alik Keplicz / AP)
A group of U.S. Army soldiers participate in an annual Polish Army Day military parade in Warsaw, Poland, on August 15, 2018. (Alik Keplicz / AP)

A change in the House Armed Serviced Committee to counter this move is likely, according to the top Republican on the panel, Texas Representative Mac Thornberry. He is part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who have expressed concern and deep skepticism about the withdrawal plans that would “benefit Russians”, “disillusion our allies” and cause logistical headaches for the DoD, he said.

“It is totally unrealistic that you would get thousands of people out of Europe by September 30th. Where would you put them? Where’s the case? ”Thornberry told reporters separately on Monday. “Part of the reason I was so concerned about this is that I believe this idea or plan – as it is – came from some people in the White House with real input from the DoD.”

“There has to be a link to strategy and our national interest, not personality issues and so on,” he said. “I think we’re going to do something [at the HASC markup], and hopefully cooler heads will prevail. “

The Romney amendment would prevent funds from being used to reduce the number of soldiers serving in Germany to below 34,500 until the Secretary of Defense for Congress verifies that the move will not harm NATO, US military operations, or military families. Assurances would also need to be given that the government has consulted the allies and that the relocation of troops would not incur significant costs.

Romney’s co-sponsors include Sens. Lindsey Graham, RS.C .; Marco Rubio, R-Fla .; Chris Coons, D-Del .; Tim Kaine, D-Va .; and Jeanne Shaheen, DN.H.

Although the Senate started debating the National Defense Authorization Act 2021 this week, it is unclear whether the change will be taken into account in the Senate. It is one of hundreds that have been offered.

Meanwhile, the co-sponsors warn that the move would weaken NATO and conflict with US national security interests.

“The withdrawal of US troops from Germany would be a gift to Russia and that is the last thing we should do,” Romney said in a statement. “We cannot give up our commitment to our allies and must instead strengthen our alliances to rule the world’s evil actors and promote the values ​​of freedom and democracy around the world.”

“The government’s withdrawal plans would seriously damage our transatlantic relationship and damage our national security,” Shaheen said in a statement. “I am proud to support this bipartisan amendment, and I hope the Senate will take this opportunity to send a clear message to the government and our allies alike that the United States stands by our allies.”

Leo Shane III of the Military Times and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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