British troops to start leaving Germany in January

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Britain announced Thursday that it will begin withdrawing its 20,000 troops stationed in Germany next January, in plans that will end Britain's military presence there by 2020.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) revealed a calendar for withdrawal of troops from Germany, Britain's largest military deployment abroad, where troops have been posted since 1945.

In October 2010, Prime Minister David Cameron's government announced plans to repatriate half of the troops in Germany by 2015 and the remaining 10,000 by 2020.

The decision comes after the government set out sharp budget cuts to tackle Britain's record deficit, and a strategic reconfiguration of its military set-up.

The MoD said the relocation of Britain's troops will save an estimated £250 million (292 million euros, $399 million) a year.

Troops from 43 Close Support Squadron will be the first to move in January. Around 120 personnel will be relocated from Gutersloh in Germany, to Abingdon, in southern England.

A further 450 soldiers based in the German town of Bielefield will return to Britain by mid-2013.

Britain, the US and France have kept troops in western Germany since the end of the Second World War. It was an important base for the NATO allies during the Cold War years.

Figures from the German government show there are currently 66,000 US army personnel in Germany, including 56,000 soldiers. France keeps 3,800 staff in the country, of which 3,600 are soldiers.

The US has been steadily reducing their presence in the country. Between 2006 and 2009, it relocated 20,000 staff from its German bases.

© 2011 AFP

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