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Britain to pull last troops out of Germany earlier than planned

Britain is set to remove all of its troops from Germany by 2020 as London looks to slash defense spending. The timetable means that the last British troops are set to leave 15 years earlier than originally planned.

A British soldier wearing a backpack

British troops are stationed in northern and western Germany

Britain is to pull the last of its troops out of Germany 15 years ahead of schedule as part of a wide-ranging program of defense cuts.

Some 20,000 British service personnel are set to leave Germany in the next decade. The troops, originally stationed in the aftermath of the Second World War, had previously been set to remain until 2035.

British Prime Minister David Cameron

Prime Minister Cameron announced details of the military cuts

"In terms of the return from Germany, half our personnel should be back by 2015 and the remainder by 2020," Prime Minister David Cameron said on Tuesday, announcing details of the defense review.

A representative of the German army told the news agency Reuters that the announcement had been unexpected.

"We are all surprised," spokeswoman Helga Heine said. "We were not informed of this at all in advance."

British soldiers are currently based at 12 sites in northern and western Germany. The review found that this was no longer necessary. The United Kingdom, France and the United States maintained troops in West Germany throughout the Cold War.

"The presence of the British military has played an important role in demonstrating alliance solidarity, and has also been a symbol of steadfast UK-German friendship," the security review said. But, it added, "There is no longer any operational requirement for UK forces to be based there."

Substantial reduction since end of Cold War

The former British Army of the Rhine - now British Forces Germany - had 58,000 soldiers stationed in Germany in the 1980s. That number was reduced substantially following the end of the Cold War.

The Robert Barracks in Osnabrueck

Osnabrueck was the largest British base outside the UK

The last British troops left their base in Osnabrueck, at one time home to the largest British garrison outside the United Kingdom, in 2008.

Britain's defense budget, which totals 37 billion pounds (42 billion euro, $58 billion), is to be slashed by eight percent. Some 17,000 service personnel will be cut from the British forces' payroll.

Cameron promised that the defense budget would remain the fourth-largest in the world and would meet a NATO requirement for members to spend two percent of gross domestic product on defense.

The defense cuts are part of a wider raft of measures being introduced by the government to cut spending by some 95 billion euros by 2015, with the majority of cuts to be announced on Wednesday afternoon.

Author: Richard Connor (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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