Germany: US troop reduction could harm NATO security

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FILE - In this Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018 file photo, President Donald Trump, center right, and first lady Melania Trump, center left, greet members of the military at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Germany's defense minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is warning that U.S. President Donald Trump's reported plans to withdraw more than a quarter of the American troops out of Germany could weaken not only the NATO alliance but the U.S. itself. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

BERLIN – Germany’s defense minister suggested Monday that U.S. President Donald Trump’s reported plans to withdraw more than a quarter of American troops out of Germany could weaken not only the NATO alliance but the U.S. itself.

Trump is said to have has signed off on a plan to reduce the total of troops stationed in Germany from 34,500 to no more than 25,000, according to reports by The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, but German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told reporters that Berlin hasn't yet been informed of any such move.

A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters, confirmed to The Associated Press that there are plans to move troops, saying some could go to Poland while others could go elsewhere.

The decision is part of the president's and Department of Defense efforts to review combatant commands around the globe, the official said.

If the U.S. goes ahead, Kramp-Karrenbauer suggested the move would do more harm to NATO as a whole than to Germany’s own defense.

“The fact is that the presence of U.S. soldiers in Germany serves the entire NATO alliance security, including America’s own security,” she said. “That is the basis on which we work together.”

In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg sidestepped a question on the decision, saying that in general “over the last few years we have actually seen an increase in the U.S. presence” in Europe.

“What I can say is that we are constantly consulting with the United States, with other NATO allies on the military posture and presence in Europe,” he said.