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Bush to Shift 70,000 Troops to U.S. From Europe, Asia 

 

(Note: Ah, politics ... what a tangled web is woven for the voter, who often feels like a bug in a spiderweb, and with very good reason. This is all about votes -- and both major party candidates fail to mention a word about bringing troops home to guard our own sievelike borders -- while both continue to pander to the ILLEGAL ALIEN vote. It is a tangled web, indeed...the Bloomberg reporter continues to paint Kerry as an honorable veteran, while quoting what seem to be only liberals.)

August 16, 2004

To contact the reporter on this story:
Roger Runningen in Cincinnati at  rrunningen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Glen Hall at  ghall@bloomberg.net

(Bloomberg) - President George W. Bush announced plans to bring home as many as 70,000 troops from Europe and Asia, about 30 percent of U.S. forces overseas, in the largest American military redeployment since the Korean War.

"Over the coming decade we'll deploy a more agile and more flexible force,'' Bush, 58, said in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Cincinnati. The shift, under consideration for more than three years, will strengthen U.S. alliances, allow the military to respond more quickly to terrorist threats, and save money as bases are closed overseas, the president said.

Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said the shift reflects that the Cold War is over and isn't related to military needs in Iraq. Bush's Democratic rival in the November 2 election, John Kerry, said the invasion of Iraq left U.S. forces overextended.

The redeployments will lead to base closings and save costs, Bush said in his speech. "We will reduce the stress on our troops and our military families,'' he said. "We will be more effective in projecting our strength.''

Kerry, a four-term Massachusetts senator, said during four campaign appearances last week that Bush rushed to war without gaining sufficient international support, leaving U.S. forces to bear the brunt of the occupation.

Timing 'Strange'

"The timing is especially strange,'' Richard Holbrooke, a Kerry foreign policy adviser, said after Bush's announcement. "No matter what the official explanation, it would appear that this is related to the fact that U.S. forces are now stretched too thin around the world, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan.''

Kerry, 60, said he would reduce U.S. troop levels in Iraq by winning help from other nations through diplomacy and would increase the size of the U.S. military by 40,000 personnel. Kerry, a Navy veteran who received Silver and Bronze stars for valor and three Purple Hearts in Vietnam, will speak at the veterans' convention Wednesday.

Retired Army General Wesley Clark said Bush's plan will "significantly undermine U.S. national security.'' Clark, a former rival of Kerry's for the Democratic nomination who's now backing the senator, said in a statement that "as we face a global war on terror with al-Qaeda active in more than in 60 countries, now is not the time to pull back our forces.''

"Withdrawing forces from Europe will further undermine already strained relations with long-time NATO allies,'' said Clark, the alliance's supreme commander in the 1999 Kosovo war.

Host Country Costs

Holbrooke, a United Nations ambassador under President Bill Clinton, said the redeployments won't save money. "This will result in significant increases in costs, and the very large host country contributions in Germany, Japan, and Korea and elsewhere will be lost,'' he said in a statement.

The Congressional Budget Office reported in May that the U.S. might save as much as $1 billion a year if it moved 95 percent of Army forces in Germany -- 80,000 soldiers -- to U.S. bases. Relocation would cost as much as $7 billion up front, the CBO said.

The U.S. military has about 138,000 troops in Iraq, about 20,000 more than the Pentagon had planned. U.S. forces are spread among in 120 countries, U.S. Representative Vic Snyder, an Arkansas Democrat and member of the House Armed Services Committee, said last month. Since the U.S. invasion began in March of last year, 932 U.S. service personnel have died in Iraq, 694 of them killed in action, according to the Pentagon.

Negotiations With Allies

The planned troop redeployment will involve 100,000 family members and civilian employees in addition to the 60,000 to 70,000 troops, Bush said. Details are being negotiated with U.S. allies, McClellan told reporters traveling with Bush.

The realignment has been in the works since 2001, before U.S. military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, a Defense Department official told a reporters' briefing. A significant number of troops, including at least two heavy divisions, will come from Germany, the official said.

U.S. aides are talking with allies in Europe and Asia, including Turkey, Italy, Russia, Japan, Korea, and Uzbekistan, over the realignment, the official said. Two F-16 fighter squadrons will remain in Turkey for now and the military installation on Guam may grow, the aide said.

The realignment would start in fiscal year 2006 at the earliest, the official said, providing no cost or savings estimate.

The shifts will take place over the next seven to ten years, another administration official told reporters on a conference call. The officials spoke on condition they not be named.

Of the 230,000 troops based abroad, about 117,000 are based in Europe and Africa, 98,000 are in the Pacific, 7,000 are based in the Middle East and south and central Asia, and 3,500 are stationed in Latin America, the official said.

'Signal to the Enemy'

Bush criticized Kerry for saying he'd reduce U.S. troop presence in Iraq over six months if he were elected president and put in a larger multinational force.

"It sends the wrong signal to the enemy,'' Bush said. "They can easily wait six months and one day. We will stay until the job is completed.''

"I know what we need to do to deal with Iraq,'' Kerry said August 11 in Nevada. "We need to do what we should have done in the beginning. We need the statesmanship. We need the patience. We need the maturity. We need the leadership.''

The withdrawal will affect European and Asian communities that have built up around U.S. bases, local officials said.

"Many parts of our local economy will crumble,'' said Michael Keller, a member of the city council in Friedberg, Germany, home of the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division. The town, 20 kilometers north of Frankfurt, has a population of 28,000.

Taxi Traffic

"It would have been nice if the Americans had stayed,'' said Muzasser Cayir, a self-employed taxi driver in Friedberg, who said the U.S. troop removal may reduce his sales by as much as 70 percent. "When the soldiers came back from Iraq, we were on the road constantly. Now I'm not very optimistic,'' he said in a telephone interview.

Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, said on CNN yesterday he's likely to support the shift. "There are some things that we should do to redeploy troops so that they are in the best position possible for what the new threats are.''

"It's a wise decision,'' Senator John Warner, Republican of Virginia and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said on the same program. "It's time to lighten up our military equipment in Europe, get the heavy stuff back here so it can be redeployed to where it might be needed.''

Bush's trip was his 21st in Ohio as president.

In 2000, Bush beat Gore by 3.5 percentage points, or 165,019 votes out of 4.7 million cast.

Ohio is one of 11 states where the 2000 vote margin between Bush and Gore was less than 5 percent.

Later in the day, Bush defended his decision to invade Iraq, telling supporters in Traverse City, Michigan, that the U.S. is safer with Saddam Hussein toppled from power. "We will engage these enemies around the world so we do not have to face them here at home,'' Bush said.

Copyright 2004, Bloomberg

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