President Donald Trump’s reported plan to withdraw thousands of troops from American bases in Germany met fierce opposition from Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, who said the idea would make overseas military missions “more difficult” to achieve.
“Such steps would significantly damage U.S. national security as well as strengthen the position of Russia to our detriment,” the group of 22 GOP lawmakers wrote in a letter to the White House. “In Europe, the threats posed by Russia have not lessened, and we believe that signs of a weakened U.S. commitment to NATO will encourage further Russian aggression and opportunism.”
On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. military will reduce its footprint in Germany by nearly one-third after Trump ordered a dramatic drawdown in force levels from the key NATO ally.
Under a memorandum signed White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien (signed in recent days but not yet made public), U.S. troop presence in Germany would drop by 9,500 service members, from 34,500 today to about 25,000, the newspaper reporters.
The administration will also cap the number of total troops in the country at 25,000, creating a potential logistics problem as various military assets move through the country to other overseas deployments.
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany declined to comment directly on the report, saying that “the president is continually reassessing the best posture for the United States military forces and our presence overseas” and “we remain committed to working with our strong allies.”
But the rumored withdrawal drew criticism from both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and third-ranking Republican in the House, called the idea “a dangerously misguided policy” from the president.
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Tuesday’s letter represented the strongest criticism of the idea so far from the president’s own party.
The letter — lead by committee ranking member Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, and including Cheney among the signers — acknowledged Trump’s long-standing complaint that European countries need to subsidize their own military forces more but called the draw down idea a poor solution to that problem.
“The overall limit on troops would prevent us from conducting the exercises that are necessary for the training and readiness of our forces and those of our allies,” the group wrote. “The troop limit would also significantly reduce the number of U.S. forces that can flow through Germany for deployment to bases around the world, causing serious logistical challenges.”
The lawmakers asked Trump to “reject such proposals” and remain committed to NATO efforts throughout the world.
White House officials did not immediately respond to the letter.
About Leo Shane III
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.