U.S. Army Paratroopers, assigned to Battery A, 4th Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, load a round into a M119 105mm howitzer during a live fire exercise at the 7th Army Training Command's Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, May 4, 2018.
  • The White House has directed the Pentagon to pull thousands of US troops out of Germany, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday, citing US officials.
  • The WSJ reported that 9,500 US troops would be removed and a cap of 25,000 would be placed on the number of troops in country. CNN reported the first figure as a tentative figure.
  • The move comes after repeated criticisms by members of the Trump administration, including the president, targeting Germany for not spending enough on its defense.
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US president Donald Trump has directed the Pentagon to pull thousands of US troops out of Germany, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

The planned withdrawal would reduce the US troop presence in Germany by 9,500 and cap the total number of US troops in country at 25,000, The WSJ reported, explaining that there are currently 34,500 troops permanently assigned there with potential for increase up to 52,000 if necessary.

A defense official confirmed the report to CNN, but said that 9,500 is a tentative planning figure. A formal movement order has not yet been sent out but is expected in the near future.

US officials told The WSJ Friday that the White House called for the reduction in a memo signed by White House National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien.

US troops in Germany served as part of the deterrence against the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and they continue to serve as a deterrent force against Russia now, serving on the front lines should they be called to defend NATO members.

"This Administration has just lost its mind," Jim Townsend, a senior fellow at the Center for New American Security who previously served the Pentagon doing work on policies pertaining to Europe and NATO, wrote on Twitter Friday. "Putin must be deliriously happy with US troops in America's streets and US troops leaving European streets."

The president has repeatedly criticized America's NATO allies for not spending their fair share on defense, and Germany, in particular, has taken a lot of criticism for spending less than 2% of its GDP on defense. Germany's defense minister said the country would reach this level by 2031, missing the 2024 deadline the allies agreed to.

Former Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell sharply criticized Germany on this point last year, telling German media that "it is actually offensive to assume that the US taxpayer must continue to pay to have 50,000-plus Americans in Germany, but the Germans get to spend their surplus on domestic programs."

Troops are expected to be withdrawn by September, The WSJ reported, but it is unclear at this time which units will be affected or where they will go, specifically whether they will return home or be relocated to other positions in Europe.

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