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RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — When the United States begins restructuring military forces worldwide, allies that supported the war in Iraq will see the benefit of their loyalty, a U.S. congressman said Wednesday.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said countries such as Poland, which has sent troops to serve in Iraq, will be remembered in any basing strategy in Eastern Europe.

“You tend to rely more on a neighbor or friend who has a history of reliability when you have to make financial commitments than one that hasn’t,” Hunter, R-Calif., said during a stop at Ramstein.

Hunter was referring to a Pentagon plan to restructure its forces, including a possible shift in overseas-based troops to Eastern Europe, Africa and the United States.

Echoing earlier Pentagon slams against “Old Europe,” Hunter said lack of support for the Iraq campaign from countries such as Germany also will be remembered.

“I think it’s healthy for nations to know that there are consequences of their actions,” Hunter said.

Polish forces have long cooperated with the United States, including sending forces to Kosovo and hosting major U.S. Army exercises in their country. Poland now leads a multinational division in south-central Iraq.

“The fact that they’ve stepped forward and their soldiers are sacrificing in Iraq is very important to us,” Hunter said. “That’s the strongest [indication] of a reliable ally.”

Hunter and fellow committee members Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, and Ken Calvert, R-Calif., returned Tuesday from a two-day trip to Iraq. They planned to visit wounded soldiers at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center on Wednesday before returning to the United States.

In order to streamline its forces and be better positioned to respond to global military needs, the Pentagon has proposed a number of changes in its global “footprint.” Among the proposals is the withdrawal of the 1st Infantry and the 1st Armored divisions from Germany, according to news reports. Other plans may include relocating F-16s based at Spangdahlem, Germany, to Turkey and moving F-15s in England.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is to present specific details of the force structure changes to the Armed Services Committee in the next few weeks, said Raymond DuBois Jr., deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment. DuBois traveled with the congressmen to Iraq and Germany.

DuBois wouldn’t discuss the details of the new “global footprint,” except to say that the 60-year-old Cold War structure has to be realigned.

DuBois did confirm that Ramstein, a key airlift hub for troops and supplies in Europe and the Middle East, will remain, as will nearby Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, which treats wounded and ill troops in the same region.

“Ramstein is an enduring base. So is Landstuhl,” DuBois said.


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