When Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced the Trump administration’s plan to withdraw about 12,000 troops from Germany, he said about half of the soldiers will go home, and the other half will be redeployed across Europe. Comments from the Pentagon chief on Tuesday suggest he is considering bringing fewer troops home than originally planned.
In July, Esper said 4,500 soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment stationed in Germany would return home to the US as part of the withdrawal. On Tuesday, Esper said there is a possibility of keeping this unit deployed in Eastern Europe on an “enduring basis.”
“Indeed, since … the signing of the defense cooperation agreement with Poland, my recent meetings with defense ministers from Romania and Bulgaria, and correspondence received from Baltic states, there is now the real opportunity of keeping the 2nd Cavalry Regiment forward in some of these countries on an enduring basis,” Esper said at a speech at the Atlantic Council.
A Pentagon official said later on Tuesday that Esper’s comments meant the 2nd Cavalry Unit would be deployed to Eastern Europe on a rotational basis, not a permanent one. According to Stars and Stripes, a Pentagon spokesman said that for now, the military is continuing with the plan to move the 2nd Cavalry Regiment to a new home station in the US. Still, Esper’s comments show the US is considering leaving more troops in Europe than initially planned.
The administration’s plan to bring troop numbers in Germany from about 36,000 to 24,000 has been met with much criticism from Congress. Lawmakers view the drawdown as a gift to Russia. The House even included an amendment to block funding for the withdrawal in its version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.
Since announcing the drawdown, Esper has defended it, insisting the administration plans to move more troops east, closer to Russia’s border. The potential plan to leave more troops in Europe than initially thought could be an attempt by Esper to appease Congress.