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Gates Undecided on Troop Cuts in Europe
Agence France-Presse  |  November 22, 2007
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has not yet decided whether more than 40,000 troops will be kept on in Europe, with US troop reductions already under way there, a Pentagon spokesman said Nov. 21.

"At this point, Secretary Gates hasn't made any final decision" regarding the European Command's proposal, spokesman Bryan Whitman said, responding to a New York Times report that the Pentagon agreed to stop the ongoing drawdown in Europe and leave about 43,000 troops, at the request of European commanders.

The number of army troops in Europe, which stood at 62,000 two years ago, was supposed to drop to about 24,000 by the end of 2008 under plans initiated by Gates' predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld.

But General Bantz Craddock, the commander of US forces in Europe, and General David McKiernan, the top US army commander in Europe, have advocated keeping the larger troop presence.

McKiernan cited uncertainties about a "resurgent Russia" as one reason to do so, while Craddock has said a study of his command's requirements concluded more troops were needed to meet the tasks assigned to it.

Citing senior Pentagon officials familiar with Gates' thinking, the Times said the defense chief was swayed by practical budgetary concerns as much as by the strategic policy arguments presented by the two generals.

With housing for all returning soldiers not yet completed, the army could waste millions of dollars on temporary residences for the soldiers and to move the families twice, the army told Gates, according to the Times.

"The secretary is inclined to approve General Craddock's request to delay the redeployment of the brigades, less from a philosophical standpoint than from a practical standpoint," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell was quoted as saying. "It happens to satisfy the needs of General Craddock and of the army."

The Times said Morrell acknowledged that delaying the return of American ground forces from Europe "also fits with what the secretary feels we should be doing in projecting strength around the world."

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