Germany's foreign minister said Friday he is glad the U.S. Congress appears to believe U.S. troops should stay in his country at current levels.
At a news briefing Friday in Berlin, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas commented on the final version of the U.S. Defense Authorization Act released Thursday by Congress. That bill says U.S. troops stationed in Germany may not be withdrawn below current levels until 120 days after the secretary of defense submits a detailed analysis of the move to Congress.
About 36,000 U.S. troops are in the country.
In July, U.S. President Donald Trump called for a reduction of about 12,000 troops stationed in Germany. Trump told reporters at the time that Germany had not contributed its share to the NATO defense alliance.
The move shocked some U.S. military officials, who see the troops as a safeguard to U.S. interests in Europe.
Maas told reporters that despite comments by the president and the Defense Department in July, Germany has "never been given any information about the troop reductions that were announced in July," so he could not say for sure what the plans are or if they even exist.
But, referring to the measure agreed upon in Congress this week, he said Germany is glad there appears to be bipartisan support among U.S. lawmakers for revisiting the decision.
He said his government plans to discuss the situation with the incoming administration and make it clear that Germany stands by its promises and its American allies.
He said, "American soldiers are welcome here. They contribute not just to Germany's but also to Europe's security."