The Trump administration’s plan to reduce troop numbers in Germany has faced enormous backlash in Washington from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. On Wednesday, members of the House Armed Services Committee grilled Pentagon officials on the matter and expressed their disapproval of the plan.
The Pentagon announced a plan to drawdown the number of troops from 36,000 to about 24,000. Pentagon officials have said about half of these troops will be redeployed in Europe, and the other half will be sent home. But during Wednesday’s hearing, Pentagon officials could not give enough detail on where these troops will be headed to satisfy the committee.
Acting Defense Undersecretary for Policy James Anderson said he could not offer much detail on the troop movement because he was not involved in the original decisions, and because the planning is still ongoing. Committee chairman Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) said, “The level of detail that we’re getting here is just not acceptable.”
Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) said the president was likely sold on the plan by “a couple of staffers in the White House [who] clearly hadn’t thought through the consequences.”
Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) invoked the Russian threat. “From a layperson’s point of view, it looks like we’ve reduced our troop presence in Europe at a time that Russia is actually becoming more of a threat,” Byrne said. “It looks like we’re pulling back, and I think that bothers a lot of us.”
A common criticism of Trump’s plan to withdraw troops from Germany is that it benefits Russia. But since the plan was announced, the US has taken steps to move troops closer to Russia, including establishing a permanent military presence in Poland.
In an interview with Fox News back in August, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said the troop movement would “deter” Russia. “We are moving many troops further east, closer to Russia’s border, to deter them,” Esper said.