German support at U.S. bases to last through year
German troops will stop guarding American bases in Germany by year’s end, a U.S. Army spokesman said this week, unless diplomacy gives birth to a new agreement between the forces.
“The current support is due to end in December,” said Bob Purtiman, a spokesman for U.S. Army Europe in Heidelberg. In the meantime, the United States is negotiating with Germany on just how to fill those Teutonic boots thereafter.
It was unclear whether the Americans would deploy their own military police to gate duty, use more private security guards or attempt to change Germany’s mind over the decision to withdraw its support.
“We are currently in negotiations for some sort of future support,” Purtiman said. “They’re still talking about it. To talk about what type of support, and from who, it would be premature to say. ... We’re not going to speculate on anything.”
A spokesman for the German Ministry of Defense confirmed the tentative plans to relieve the guards.
“Our minister gave his point of view in an interview: His political wish would be to end this duty by the end of this year,” said the spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The lieutenant colonel said the negotiations were now on the “working level.”
The Defense Ministry announced it would offer the services of some 2,500 members of its Bundeswehr, or federal armed forces, in early 2003 to help ease the burden on U.S. bases. Army National Guard units also deployed to Germany to perform gate duty while many active-duty soldiers were serving in the Middle East prior to the war in Iraq.
The number of German guards has since decreased to about 1,700, according to the ministry. A lesser number of German troops, about 800, also guarded bases for several months following the Sept. 11 attacks.
German Defense Minister Peter Struck recently told the weekly newspaper Welt am Sonntag that he planned to pull the guards to save money. The German military has been wrangling with the Finance Ministry over defense spending.
“At the end of the year, we want to stop the German federal armed forces guarding American military bases,” Struck said in the report.
He also said German troops deployed to peacekeeping missions would spend four months abroad rather than six. With nearly 8,000 troops deployed in places such as the Balkans and Afghanistan, Germany has more troops performing peacekeeping duty than any other country, save the United States. German air force Gen. Gerhard W. Back is currently the joint forces commander of NATO troops in Afghanistan.
However, Struck said in the same report that German troops would not serve in any peacekeeping mission in Iraq even if NATO were to take on a formal role. Struck said Germany would only provide medical airlift, if that.
The German troops guarding U.S. bases in at least some cases outnumbered the guardsmen they replaced, relieving the Americans from sending in reinforcements. The troops inspect cars and man weapons positions behind base gates in case an intruder attempts any sort of attack.
The German soldiers have also became common sights inside base gyms, post exchanges, commissaries and dining halls. Many of the troops guard U.S. posts several hours from their home bases.