Planned US troop cuts in Germany prompts fear of same move in Afghanistan
By ELLA JOYNER | dpa | Published: June 18, 2020
BRUSSELS (Tribune News Service) — As NATO members kicked off two days of talks Wednesday in the shadow of U.S. plans to pull troops from Germany, sources in the alliance expressed concerns President Donald Trump is planning an even more drastic move in fragile Afghanistan.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has sought to downplay the gravity of U.S. plans to pull thousands of troops from Germany.
According to several NATO diplomats, Trump’s German plan has raised concern he could move to unilaterally withdraw U.S. troops crucial to NATO’s operation in Afghanistan after close to two decades of involvement.
Such a decision would violate central promises to the European allies and have uncontrollable consequences for the country’s security, the sources say.
For example, the NATO training mission in Afghanistan would most likely have to end immediately, since U.S. soldiers currently provide most of the security.
After announcing a reduced NATO presence earlier this year, the U.S. and other allies will discuss the next steps in the coming months, according to the alliance head.
Trump announced Monday that the U.S. will draw down its deployment in Germany to 25,000 troops, accusing Berlin of being “delinquent” in payments to NATO.
There are approximately 34,500 U.S. soldiers currently stationed in Germany along with additional civilian personnel — the largest U.S. military deployment in Europe.
The plans were discussed the video conference but “no final decision has been made on how and when to implement the U.S. decision,” Stoltenberg stressed.
“The U.S. presence in Europe matters for the whole alliance,” but the number of soldiers Washington has in Germany is a bilateral matter, Stoltenberg said.
Also Wednesday, Stoltenberg said NATO allies are planning to revamp their nuclear deterrence capabilities in response to the growing range of Russian missiles.
“We will maintain our deterrence and defense, but we will not mirror Russia,” Stoltenberg said, following talks between the alliance’s defense ministers. “We have no intention to deploy new land-based nuclear missiles in Europe.”
Stoltenberg declined to give specific details. “This is about air and missile defense,” he said. “Allies are already investing significantly in augmenting their air and missile defense systems.”
On the second day of defense ministers’ talks Thursday, the 30-country defense alliance is set to sign off an operational plan for the case of a second wave of COVID-19 infections, according to Stoltenberg, as well as a stockpile of medical equipment and a crisis fund.