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STUTTGART, Germany — It will be years before large numbers of U.S. troops begin pulling out of Germany, a top military official said Thursday.

The United States also will have troops stationed in Germany and throughout Europe for years to come to support the military needs of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO.

Air Force Gen. Charles F. Wald, deputy commander of the U.S. European Command, or EUCOM, called the news conference to answer questions that were raised by President Bush’s speech on Monday in Cincinnati.

In the speech, Bush affirmed his desire to make the military more mobile, which included withdrawing up to 70,000 troops from Europe and South Korea. The United States has more than 100,000 troops stationed in Europe, the vast majority being Army soldiers stationed in Germany.

“When all is said and done, we will still have a significant force here,” Wald told the mostly German audience. “We’re committed to NATO, and I think in the endgame we’re going to provide more security for the United States and NATO as a whole.”

Wald said EUCOM wanted to work with European militaries to prevent Africa from becoming a safe haven and thoroughfare for terrorists.

“Africa has emerged as a significant issue to the United States and Europe for various reasons,” Wald said, “from the standpoint of instability and unstable governments and the things that come with that.

“We’re very interested in cooperating with European countries on involvement in Africa.”

The transformation plan, which has been developing since Bush took office, calls for the establishment of forward operating sites and cooperative security locations — essentially way stations, refueling sites and equipment depots — that are closer to potential U.S. enemies in Africa, the Middle East and southwestern Asia.

It also calls for withdrawing thousands of troops from Germany and moving them to the United States, as well as closing bases that are no longer considered militarily relevant.

There are dozens of U.S. bases in Germany. Wald declined to say which ones were going to be closed or when. He said the plan’s cost has yet to be calculated but said that the relocation of troops and hardware could eventually be completely offset by the savings of housing troops, families and support personnel overseas.


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