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Germany to remain as top US base

Published on 27/11/2003

27 November 2003

MUNICH – Germany is to remain the most important foreign base for the US military with far fewer troops being withdrawn as thought under plans by the Bush administration to reshuffle its global military presence, a press report said Thursday.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper said it had learned that up to 80 percent of the 70,000 US troops in Germany would remain stationed in the country and that Washington has no plans to set up bases in Poland, Bulgaria or Romania as considered earlier this year.

According to the newspaper’s information, it is also regarded as certain that bases in Asia will be closed.

The report, which gave no official source, said that although the Bush administration is about to launch formal talks with a host of allies the military overhaul has already been approved internally.

For Germany, it means far fewer troop reductions than had been envisaged after the end of the war in Iraq.

The White House has rejected sweeping reductions proposed by General James Jones, head of US European Command, and will retain 80 percent of its forces in Germany, the report said.

Bases at Ramstein, Frankfurt and logistical centres on the North Sea coast will remain, as well as most of the German-based infantry units including the First Armoured Division.

With many of the German-based troops active in Iraq, Washington has decided that armed forces families should not be placed under further strain which could affect troop morale, the report said.

Germany also provided a safe and friendly environment, and despite the row with Berlin over the Iraq war the German government had been a reliable partner. It had not refused overfly rights or imposed restrictions on movements during the Iraq war, and had also provided additional security outside bases, the report said.

The decision means that plans to move bases to new NATO member Poland or designated NATO countries Bulgaria or Romania will not be pursued. Washington believes the expense of establishing new infrastructure in those countries would be too high in view of the present strains on the budget.

Meanwhile bases in Asia, especially South Korea, are set for closure. Hostility towards the US military presence in the region is believed to be a factor in the decision, it was reported.

US President George W. Bush had on Tuesday announced the United States would be realigning its military posture worldwide to accommodate the terrorist threat in what will be the most sweeping shift in the U.S. military presence abroad since World War II

Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld will brief colleagues at NATO ministerial meetings next week, and Secretary of State Colin Powell will take it up a few days later with NATO foreign ministers.

The concept is expected to be announced and approved early next year.

The administration has indicated that nations such as Germany, Japan and South Korea could see a significant decrease in the US military presence as the Pentagon focuses on the “war on terror”.

Bush cited the unpredictable dangers associated with “rogue nations, global terrorism and weapons of mass destruction” as prompting the move.

“While we continue to make progress in the transformation of our uniformed military, it remains for us to realign the global posture of our forces to better address these new challenges,” he said.

Bush reassured allies that the review of US overseas force posture would “strengthen existing relationships” and increase Washington’s ability to carry out defence commitments.

Subject: German news