Washington, 16 August 2004 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush said today he plans to withdraw as many as 70,000 troops out of Europe and East Asia. Some of these troops are reported to be headed for new postings in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Speaking to a convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars today in Cincinnati, Bush said, "Although we will still have a significant presence overseas, under the plan I am announcing today over the next 10 years we will bring home about 60,000 to 70,000 uniformed personnel." In addition, Bush said, about 100,000 military family members and civilian support staff also will be redeployed.
Bush said that the United States must redefine its global military presence since the end of the Cold War and the recent threat of groups like Al-Qaeda. He called for new flexibility for U.S. forces to respond to a new, more agile threat.
"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 tax payers and so we can be more effective at projecting our strength and spreading freedom and peace," Bush said.
Bush gave no further details of the redeployment, but news reports say most will be sent to military bases in the United States. There, some are expected to be used to provide much-needed relief for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"What will happen is all the discussions will go forward, they will be announced as they are finalized, and then they could play out over four or five or six years." - Rumsfeld
Reports also say an undetermined number of the redeployed soldiers likely will be shifted to the NATO expansion countries of Eastern Europe. Poland and Bulgaria are among the biggest supporters of Bush's foreign and military policies.
In Central Asia, Uzbekistan also is believed to be a candidate for hosting U.S. forces. It has been a staging point for coalition troops since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.
Bush spoke of the redeployment in unspecific terms -- "in the next 10 years." But the moves could begin soon because the United States already has been involved in negotiations with the countries where the troops are to be withdrawn.
Like Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- who will be directly responsible for the redeployment -- says the move will not be abrupt and massive. Speaking yesterday in St. Petersburg, Russia, he said: "There certainly won't be a big movement of everything. What will happen is all the discussions will go forward, they will be announced as they are finalized, and then they could play out over four or five or six years."
U.S. military officials have long said the presence of U.S. forces in Germany no longer make sense with the end of the Cold War 15 years ago. However, Washington reportedly wants to keep at least one major military airfield in Germany for relaying troops to Europe and the Middle East.
Meanwhile, the United States already has begun changes in its military presence in South Korea. It has moved troops out of the capital, Seoul, and redeployed forces farther from the Demilitarized Zone, along the border with North Korea, to bases in central South Korea.For the latest news on the U.S.-led War on Terror, see RFE/RL's webpage on "The War on Terror".