US President George W. Bush has announced plans to shift up to 70,000 US troops stationed in western Europe and Asia. Some of them are expected to be moved to posts in eastern Europe while others will return home.
Bush speaking to veterans after the announcement
Poland and Turkey have been named as possible locations for additional troops. Others are to be based in the US, available for deployments overseas. Bush made the announcement while addressing the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Cincinnati.
"For the coming decade, we'll deploy a more agile and more flexible force, which means that more of our troops will be stationed and deployed from here at home," he said. "We'll move some of our troops and capabilities to new locations so they can surge quickly to respond to unexpected threats."
With these words US President George W. Bush has set in motion one of the largest troop realignments since the end of the Cold War. And, indeed, Bush cited the cessation of Soviet-era hostilities as the primary reason for an action which will have far-reaching implications not only for the US, but for major allies around the world, including Germany. Around 70,000 US troops are stationed in military bases across this country.
"For decades, American armed forces abroad have essentially remained where the wars of the last century ended -- in Europe and in Asia," Bush said.
Old enemies have disappeared
Soldiers of the US Army stationed in Germany preparing for a mission to Iraq
US troops were based in large numbers in Germany during the Cold War to deter a Soviet invasion. The US will also reduce troop numbers in South Korea, where they have held static positions for 50 years.
Though old enemy no longer exists, newer and perhaps more unpredictable ones appear to be emerging all the time. The realignment follows years of debate over how to respond to modern-day threats, such as terrorism and unrest in the Middle East. And the question of where the troops should be positioned to best execute their present and future missions inevitably followed.
"We'll take advantage of 21st century military technologies to rapidly deploy increased combat power," Bush said. "The new plan will help us fight and win these wars of the 21st century. It will strengthen our alliances around the world while we build new partnerships to better preserve the peace."
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had already said he wanted troops to be based more flexibly so they could be deployed for a variety of missions, rather than being tied down to a single country. Bush said he was bringing thousands of soldiers and other personnel back home in the interest of their family life as well.
"The world has changed a great deal and our posture must change with it for the sake of our military families, for the sake of our taxpayers, and so we can be more effective at projecting our strength and spreading freedom and peace," Bush said.
While the plan is bound to get Bush more election-year applause, not least from families of military personnel, some analysts say it won't ease the strain on some 150,000 soldiers deployed to war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. armed forces stationed elsewhere around the world number around 200,000. About half are in Europe.