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Germany

German Mayors: Let U.S. Troops Stay in Germany

Amid speculation the U.S. might drastically reduce its troops and their families based in Germany, the mayors of 13 German cities that host American bases traveled to Washington to plead the personnel be allowed to stay.

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U.S. airbase Ramstein in southwestern Germany is one of the largest in Europe.

The U.S. State Department is currently reviewing the future of its many U.S. military bases around the world. In the next few months, it is expected to announce major changes, which could include major cuts to the 70,000 U.S. troops and their families based in Germany.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the Pentagon wants to pull out 75 percent of U.S. troops from Germany over the next few years. Many are to be deployed to countries like Poland, Hungary or Romania, without their families, for six month rotational posts. The Pentagon argues the move will save much money and also allow the forces to be much closer to where they’re needed.

German mayors: troop withdrawal will be disastrous

But the decision is proving to be a nightmare for the mayors of 13 German cities and towns, which host large American bases. They argue the pulling out of American troops, originally stationed there after the Second World War as one of the occupying powers, will have major social and economic repercussions in Germany.

The mayor of Kaiserslautern Bernhard Deubig, for example, says his city will lose one billion U.S. dollars in revenue per year alone should the troops leave. "Just last October, we signed a contract to supply U.S. troops with energy worth 200 million dollars a year. That’s worth sixty jobs over 20 years. These kind of things really add up, and will be a major upheaval if the troops pack up and leave," he told Deutsche Welle.

U.S. troops well-integrated into German society

To make their point, the 13 traveled to Washington this week to personally explain to the Pentagon, the U.S. State Department and even Congress that Germany is a safe and pleasant home for U.S. troops.

Helmut Wächter, the mayor of Grafenwöhr in Bavaria, told Deutsche Welle he returned feeling somewhat better than when he left. "Our message came across in all of our discussions. Some of those who spoke on our behalf are also based in Germany, and through their own experiences, know about, and understand, the special relationships that are formed. And of course, they will try to convey this message so that Washington can take these issues into consideration."

Mayor Wächter’s sentiments were confirmed by U.S. Brigadier-General Erwin Lessel based in Kaiserlautern which is home to 40,000 U.S. troops and their families. Brigadier-General Lessel said the troops liked it there and added many of them have become close friends with their German neighbours.

Reduction of forces still unclear

Mayor Deubig of Kaiserslautern said he expects U.S. forces will be asked to leave Germany, but doubts that the figure of 75 percent is accurate. "That figure has not been confirmed. But it’s been made clear that the discussion is focussed on a reduction of large numbers of U.S. troops."

The cuts could be interpreted as a rebuke to Germany’s anti-war stance. But experts note that the Pentagon can’t shrink size of its forces in Europe too much without risking its status within NATO – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The final numbers are expected to be announced in a few months – troop withdrawal could follow as soon as one year later.