President Donald Trump takes a selfie with US troops at Ramstein airbase, Germany in December 2018 [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]
President Donald Trump has ordered the United States military to remove nearly 9,500 troops from Germany, a senior US official said on Friday, a move likely to raise concerns in Europe about the US commitment to the region.
The move would reduce US troops numbers in Germany to 25,000 from the 34,500 currently there.More: Hanau mourns its loved ones murdered in far-right attack Timeline: Far-right attacks in Germany Germany shisha lounge shootings: All the latest updates
The official, who did not want to be identified, said the move was the result of months of work by top US military officer, General Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and had nothing to do with tensions between Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who thwarted Trump's plan to host a G7 meeting this month.
A second senior administration official said the 9,500 troops would be sent elsewhere, some to Poland, some to other allied countries, while some would return home.
This official said there was less need for the large contingent in Germany due to overall increased defence spending by the US-led NATO military alliance.
The second official said the change was ordered in a memorandum signed recently by Trump's national security adviser, Robert O'Brien. The official said the US started working on the plan last September and had just now got the pieces in place.
The move is the latest twist in relations between Berlin and Washington, which have often been strained during Trump's presidency. Trump has pressed Germany to raise defence spending and accused Berlin of being a "captive" of Russia due to its energy reliance.
There are 34,000 U.S. troops in Germany protecting Germans and Europeans. I can tell you this: @RolandNelles & @SPIEGELONLINE are wrong. Americans don't understand why Germany isn't meeting its NATO obligations & helping the West. And they are growing very annoyed by it. https://t.co/cHH2FaUqkZ— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) August 8, 2019
About 17,000 US civilian employees support US troops in Germany. It is believed the US also has nuclear warheads there.
In May, the then-US ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, accused Berlin of undermining NATO's nuclear deterrent, taking aim at Merkel's junior coalition partners after some of their leaders called for nuclear disarmament.
SOURCE: Reuters news agency