GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — In an effort to boost cooperation between troops carrying out missions alongside each other in war zones, U.S. military officials are looking to permanently station foreign troops at U.S. training areas in Germany.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama outlined his plans to boost the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan by 30,000, up to roughly 100,000 by next summer. The U.S. also is pressing for at least another 5,000 foreign troops — in addition to the 36,000 already on the ground — to accompany the American surge.

While foreign troops already conduct some training at U.S. bases in Hohenfels and Grafenwöhr, this would be the first time a significant number of those troops would be permanently stationed there.

The U.S. already has invited two nations to station troops at the U.S. training center in Hohenfels, according to Brig. Gen. Steven L. Salazar, who took command at the Joint Multinational Training Command at Grafenwöhr three months ago. The Hohenfels center is the last place U.S. soldiers in Europe train before heading to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Salazar declined to name the two nations who were extended invitations, but he said two observer controllers from those countries initially would be stationed at Hohenfels. Observer controllers oversee exercises designed to prepare troops for deployment to war zones.

Eventually, a team of about a dozen personnel would be working there full time.

Training for foreign troops is an area where there is room for considerable growth at the training command, Salazar said.

“We have the resources, and the understanding is being developed across Europe as well as in the U.S. in terms of what we do to help our partners,” he said.

There already is multinational training at Hohenfels, where Afghanistan-bound Operational Mentor and Liaison teams from 12 nations are training this month. Foreign troops have attended the 7th Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy at Grafenwöhr.

The training command also plans to boost counter-IED, or improvised explosive device, training for NATO troops and replicate the multinational communications systems employed in Afghanistan, Salazar said.

And next year will see increased training support at the center for U.S. and coalition forces preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, he said.

The multinational effort in Afghanistan has been beset with problems such as personnel shortfalls and national caveats restricting some foreign troops to noncombat roles. In addition, different training regimens among various nations mean that allied efforts are not always seamless, one analyst said Wednesday.

Leo Michel, a senior research fellow at the National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies, said the decision to base foreign trainers at JMRC is not surprising and will likely help achieve international goals in Afghanistan.

“There have been differences among the NATO allies, not just between the U.S. and the Europeans or between the U.S. and Canada,” he said. “There have been differences in approaches to training Afghan security forces and in the way we have structured and operated our respective [provincial reconstruction teams].”

Whatever can be done to encourage more commonality, or at least exchanges of experience with regard to the effort to train Afghan forces, will be of benefit, he said.

“It certainly doesn’t serve the Afghan purposes if some Afghans are learning one way from a European instructor and another Afghan unit is learning a different method from the Canadians or from us,” he said.

author picture
Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now