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U.S. commander calls planned troop reduction in Europe "manageable"

03-01-2012 13:03 BJT

WASHINGTON, Feb. 29 (Xinhua) -- The planned reduction of U.S. forces in Europe is an extension of the post-Cold War drawdown that is "both manageable and appropriate" in the new global context, James Stavridis, commander of the U.S. European Command, said on Wednesday.

Testifying at a hearing held by the House Armed Services Committee, Stavridis said the planned 15 percent reduction of U.S. troops in Europe will cut 28,000 troops from the current level of about 96,000, which is about 75 percent fewer from its record high of about 400,000 troops in Europe at the height of the Cold War.

Stavridis, who also serves as the NATO supreme allied commander for Europe, said that the fiscal 2013 U.S. defense budget calls for withdrawal of two heavy brigade combat teams and two air squadrons from Europe next year and in fiscal 2014.

This proposal was based on the new U.S. strategic military guidance developed over months of discussions among combatant commanders and other military leaders, Stavridis said, adding that he supports the new strategy and troop reduction in Europe.

At the same time, the commander cited several reasons for keeping U.S. military presence in Europe: its economic base, which accounts for about 25 percent of the world's gross domestic product; its central location for deploying U.S. troops to Africa, Middle East and South and Central Asia; the NATO alliance; and the long-standing military-to-military relations and training opportunities.

"Europe is a very broad geo-strategic platform," he said. "This is a part of the world that really shares our values. We stand with Europe in many, many ways philosophically. For all those reasons, Europe will continue to matter, and I hope we'll approach (downsizing) in a balanced way."

European Command, which worked hard in the past year on NATO campaigns in Libya, Afghanistan and the Balkans, will continue to strengthen partnerships for training and operations, and focus on areas such as missile defense and countering cyber threats and drug trafficking, he added.

To mitigate any possible risks associated with the U.S. drawdown, Stavridis said the United States will have a dedicated brigade combat team in Germany on a rotational basis for possible deployment to Eastern Europe, the Baltic states or wherever it is needed.

The European Command will continue to strengthen its military partnerships with other nations which fight alongside U.S. forces, because such partnerships are also important to missions such as fighting drug trafficking, anti-piracy and cyber defense, the commander added.

Editor:Zhang Jianfeng |Source: Xinhua

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