German defence minister: UStroop pullout 'heavy loss'

17th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

17 August 2004 , APPEN - German Defence Minister Peter Struck said Tuesday that plans for a major US troop pullout from Germany would be a "heavy loss" for many regions in the country and pledged that Berlin's own military cutback plans would be adjusted accordingly. Struck, visiting German military forces in Appen, said the US had "no alternative" to its troop reduction plans. He said he had talked with the premiers of those German states which would be most greatly affected by the US troop pullouts - Bav

17 August 2004

APPEN - German Defence Minister Peter Struck said Tuesday that plans for a major US troop pullout from Germany would be a "heavy loss" for many regions in the country and pledged that Berlin's own military cutback plans would be adjusted accordingly.

Struck, visiting German military forces in Appen, said the US had "no alternative" to its troop reduction plans.

He said he had talked with the premiers of those German states which would be most greatly affected by the US troop pullouts - Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate.

Struck said that the Defence Ministry's own plans for closing down military facilities would take into consideration those areas affected by the US troop withdrawals.

"You can't regard these two matters as being separate," he said, referring to the US withdrawal and German military facility closures.

By the end of this year Struck is to announce 100 further closures of German military facilities.

"You cannot do this without looking at the other," he said about the closures.

His remarks came two days after he returned to work after a 10- week break following what Berlin now officially said was a slight stroke which the 61-year-old minister suffered in June.

Meanwhile cities around Germany were left pondering their fate, worried about the possible adverse economic impact from troop withdrawals.

Berlin government officials were still awaiting the full details of the pullback plans, amid unconfirmed reports that possibly as many as one-half of the some 73,000 troops in Germany would be pulled out.

Reinhold Robbe, chairman of the German parliament's defence affairs committee, said it was not clear yet whether half the forces would be withdrawn.

But in any event, the pullback would be "a bitter blow", he told Bavarian Radio.

Local community officials were clearly worried about the negative economic impact, both in terms of jobs provided by the U.S. military and the loss of customers for local businesses posed by the tens of thousands of soldiers and their families.

According to reports, the 1st Armored Division in Wiesbaden and the 1st Infantry Division in Wuerzburg were to be pulled out under the U.S. plans.

Wuerzburg city government spokesman Ole Kruse said a withdrawal of the 6,000 soldiers and their 3,000 dependents could pose a big loss of local business.

"But we are hoping that the US Army won't completely leave us," Kruse said.

A further military site expected to be reduced is the infantry base at Baumholder, in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate.

"The site will with certainty not exist over the long run," a state government undersecretary, Karl Peter Bruch, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. Baumholder is where part of the 1st Armored Division is stationed.

In Ansbach, a US Army spokeswoman said that there were as yet no definite figures about the size of the pullouts planned in the southern state of Bavaria.

She said the plans being made for reducing the 1st Infantry Division would affect only part of those units stationed in Wuerzburg, Ansbach, Bamberg, Kitzingen and Schweinfurt.

"If somebody thinks that we are closing down tomorrow, then this is not the case," the spokeswoman added.

DPA

Subject: German news

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