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Germany Says US Troop Withdrawal Regrettable But Not Unexpected - 2004-08-17

U.S. plans to withdraw 30,000 troops from Germany are a sign of changing international conditions, according to a German government spokesman, and he says the move comes as no great surprise. But, regional leaders say their economies will be hurt by the withdrawals. The German government says the move is understandable, given American security concerns. Karsten Voigt, Berlin's coordinator for German-American relations, says that despite the changes, Germany will still remain a strategic location for American troops.

"We like the American troops staying in Germany, but on the other side we understand that the American government is restructuring its forces," he said. "And as part of the restructuring it is also reducing the number of American troops staying in Germany. And we are happy that in the future Germany will still be the largest deployment place in Europe."

President Bush announced plans Monday to bring home as many as 70,000 troops from Europe and Asia within 10 years. U.S. defense officials say about 30,000 troops in Germany will be withdrawn.

For more than a half a century U.S. troops have been stationed in Germany. Mr. Voigt says their presence was a real success story for German-American relations.

"The relationship between the local communities and the American troops were very close and we always thought that, not only did the American troops feel comfortable while they were staying in Germany," he said. "But also that they were good ambassadors for a new and modern and democratic Germany when they returned to the U.S."

Mayors, community leaders, and business groups across southern Germany, where most American troops are stationed, say their economies will be hurt by the loss of local employment and because large numbers of family members will be leaving with the soldiers. Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber, whose region will be seriously affected, has asked for federal assistance.

The Pentagon had advised German officials earlier this year that it was considering removing Army units from Germany and replacing them with smaller and more mobile forces.