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Bush withdraws 70 thousand troops from overseas { August 15 2004 }

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Germany to bear brunt of US troop withdrawal
By Peter Spiegel, Defence Correspondent
Published: August 15 2004 20:52 | Last updated: August 15 2004 20:52

Germany will be hit harder than any other country by US President George W. Bush's announcement on Monday that the Pentagon will withdraw 70,000 troops from overseas and return them to US bases, US officials said at the weekend.

About 45,000 of the reduction will come in Europe, a majority being culled from the 75,000 US servicemen based in facilities across Germany. The US has been in talks with German officials about its plans for more than a year. It will be the biggest restructuring of US forces overseas since the end of the cold war. The plans include a general briefing in December when most of the overview was presented, according to a senior state department official.

Senior Pentagon officials have emphasised that any reduction is not connected with Germany's opposition to the Iraq war. “The US's level of interest, commitment and military capability resident in this theatre should no longer be measured exclusively by the number of troops permanently based in Europe,” General James Jones, head of the US's European command, said in a recent Capitol Hill hearing.

The German reductions are expected to include the withdrawal of heavy army divisions the 1st armoured, based in Wiesbaden, and the 1st infantry, based in Wurzburg and the closure of 13 installations near the towns of Friedberg and Giessen. The air force will withdraw from Rhein-Main air base in Frankfurt and consolidate operations in Ramstein and Spangdahlem. One US official said there had been an intense, joint Pentagon/state department effort to ease the German government's concerns about the reduction and that some new capabilities including a new brigade of light-armoured Stryker vehicles are a result of German requests.

Other upgrades will include better training and command facilities, focused at Grafenwoehr, where a $630m (€509m) project is under way to build new facilities. German officials expressed wariness at the prospect of big withdrawals, saying they were likely to be hard on small communities that relied on the US presence for economic activity. But US officials said they did not believe there would be a significant political reaction in Germany because of the diplomatic efforts made over the past six months.

“In Asia and Europe for many months now we've had a series of official visits where both the why and the wherefore of this initiative have been discussed, have been briefed and have been, I think, quite well received, both in Europe and Asia,” said the senior state department official.

Additional reporting by HughWilliamson in Berlin

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