US to withdraw 7,000 troops from Europe: Panetta

Obama unveiled the new military strategy earlier this month for a leaner US military focused on countering China`s rising power.

Updated: Jan 13, 2012, 17:45 PM IST

Washington: The US will withdraw about 7,000 troops from bases in Europe as part a new defence strategy to accommodate hundreds of billions of dollars in budget cuts over the coming decade, a top US official has said.

As part of 10-year defence strategy announced last week, the United States will withdraw two brigades, or roughly 7,000 US troops, from Europe replacing it with rotational units, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said.

In an interview to the American Forces Press Service, an in-house Defence Department news service, Panetta said, "The change is part of a new, 10-year defence strategy announced by President Barack Obama last week that emphasizes air-sea doctrine to better allow the United States to confront more than one threat at a time."

"Still, ground forces will remain important, and soldiers and Marines will continue to deploy to Afghanistan and be on the Korean Peninsula and partnering with nations around the globe," he said.

"We will continue to maintain our presence both in the Middle East and Asia. Yes, we`ll have the Navy and the Air Force, but in my experience, in any conflict you need to have the potential use of ground forces," Panetta added.

The Defence Secretary said he is excited about the prospect of using Army units on a rotational basis, just as Special Forces and the Marine Corps do.

"Getting the Army to deploy to areas conducting exercises providing, most of all, a partnership with countries in Latin America, Africa, other countries where we can show the flag" is important, he said.

Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno is particularly excited about the ability to develop that rotational capability, Panetta said.

"It will keep the ground forces very meaningful in the future," he added.

Obama unveiled the new military strategy earlier this month for a leaner US military focused on countering China`s rising power and signalling a shift away from large ground wars against insurgents.

The "defence strategic review" sets out an approach for the US military in a looming era of austerity, as Obama`s administration prepares for USD 487 billion in defence cuts over the next 10 years.

As the Army replaces the two brigade combat teams with rotational units, the Europeans actually will see more US forces because the American forces in Europe have more often than not been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, Panetta said, who gave this interview on his way to Fort Bliss in Texas.

PTI