Austin: US adds 500 troops in Germany, despite Trump pledge

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is greeted by German Defense Minister Annegret Kano-Karrenbauer, Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Berlin. (AP Photos/Robert Burns)
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is greeted by German Defense Minister Annegret Kano-Karrenbauer, Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Berlin. (AP Photos/Robert Burns) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

BERLIN – Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced on Tuesday that he is expanding the U.S. military presence in Germany by 500 troops and has stopped planning for large-scale troop cuts ordered by the Trump administration.

Adding 500 troops to a current total of about 35,000 is a symbolic gesture of solidarity with Germany and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but it also fills a practical need that commanders in Europe had identified months ago. Austin said the extra troops will have a role in space, cybersecurity and electronic warfare.

“This planned increase in U.S. personnel underscores our commitment to Germany and the entire NATO alliance,” Austin said in a notable counterpoint to the Trump administration’s repeated complaints that Germany is a weak partner on defense and security.

Austin made the announcement after talks with German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on his first tour of Europe since becoming Pentagon chief in January.

Kramp-Karrenbauer welcomed the announcement as a “strong signal” of a healthy U.S.-German relationship.

They also discussed what was then a pending decision by President Joe Biden on whether to withdraw completely from Afghanistan. U.S. officials said hours later that Biden had decided to remove troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the 2001 attacks, missing a May 1 deadline negotiated by the Trump administration. Germany is a key part of the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan.

On Wednesday, Austin plans to travel to NATO headquarters in Brussels to discuss Biden's decision.

In his remarks in Berlin, Austin said at a joint news conference with Kramp-Karrenbauer that the extra 500 U.S. troops in Germany will be stationed permanently in the Wiesbaden area as early as this fall.