Washington: The US is looking to reduce the number of its troops in Europe, but the exact figures would be available only when President Barack Obama presents his budget to the Congress next month, a top American official said.
"There's four brigade combat teams dedicated and home-based in Europe... More or less for the last 10 years, we've had two of the brigade combat teams in Afghanistan. So again, the question is where do they return to," said Julianne Smith, principal director for European and NATO policy.
Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Phillip Gordon told reporters that a number of permanently deployed US soldiers in Europe for the past 8 to 10 years have been deployed in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"So we're not talking about withdrawals from Europe. The question is really troops going back to Europe and how many of the permanently stationed ones will be there," he said in response to a question.
Gordon said it is hard to give numbers at this point of time. "There are the troops that are permanently deployed in Europe, where there home base is, but for the past decade they have been significantly fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that, we expect, in the coming years will no longer be the case," he said.
Noting that the trans-Atlantic relationship remains an essential source of stability in an unpredictable world, and Europe is America's principal partner in promoting global and economic security, Gordon said the strategy outlined last week reaffirms its commitment to European security and will ensure its continued ability to meet Article 5 commitments and also to enhance US cooperation and interoperability with its European partners on global challenges.
"If you look around the world and see where America is operating globally, you will see in so many cases how closely and importantly we work with our European allies and partners. We have worked together on challenges around the world, most recently in Libya, ongoing in Afghanistan, but also Kosovo and the Balkans and the Horn of Africa," he said.
Diplomatically, Gordon said, the US works very closely with its European partners on countering the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction and to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
"We're also working very closely together to support economic and political transition in the Middle East and North Africa and to increase pressure on Syria to meet its commitments to refrain from violence against its own people," he said.
First Published: Tuesday, January 10, 2012, 12:18