U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III said Wednesday he values Germany as a station for U.S. troops, leading to speculation he may reverse a decision by the Trump administration to pull troops out of the country.
Austin made the comments in an introductory call to German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. A summary of the call posted to the Defense Department website said Austin “expressed his gratitude to Germany for continuing to serve as a great host for U.S. forces, and expressed his desire for a continued dialogue on U.S. force posture in Germany. “
Last year, then-President Donald Trump ordered the reduction of the U.S. military contingent stationed in Germany by more than 25%, and the Pentagon had been studying how that could be done.
The Associated Press reports that in the German Defense Ministry’s readout of the call, Austin “emphasized that Germany is highly valued as a station and that American soldiers feel very comfortable here.” He added that “the U.S. continues to consider its presence in Germany as an important part of joint security.”
About 34,500 U.S. troops are stationed in Germany, which includes key U.S. military facilities like the Ramstein Air Base and the headquarters for U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command.
The U.S. readout said Austin noted the importance of Germany to the NATO Alliance and expressed his desire for continued consultation.