US: Germany is 'highly valued' station for American troops

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin participates in a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony with Vice President Kamala Harris, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Monday, Jan. 25, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (Evan Vucci, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

BERLIN – Germany is “highly valued” as a station for American soldiers, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer in his first conversation with her since taking up his new post, the German Defense Ministry said Thursday.

Last year, then President Donald Trump ordered the reduction of the U.S. military contingent stationed in Germany by more than 25% and the Pentagon has been studying how that could be done.

German officials have hoped that order will be rescinded by the new administration, and the German Defense Ministry said that in his call with Kramp-Karrenbauer on Wednesday, Austin “emphasized that Germany is highly valued as a station and that American soldiers feel very comfortable here."

“The U.S. continues to consider its presence in Germany as an important part of joint security,” the Defense Ministry said in a readout of the call.

About 34,500 U.S. troops are stationed in Germany, which includes key American military facilities like the Ramstein Air Base and the headquarters for U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command.

The U.S. Defense Department said Austin “expressed his gratitude to Germany for continuing to serve as a great host for U.S. forces, and expressed his desire for a continued dialogue on U.S. force posture in Germany.”

The two officials also discussed a range of other issues including NATO cooperation, and the security situations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Defense Department said Austin wanted to “reinforce the value the United States places on the bilateral defense relationship with one of our closest NATO Allies.”